Greenwater Lakes

Area: Chinook Lake
Hike Type: Family-friendly Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
Distance: 4 mi RT Duration: 2 hrs Difficulty Level: Easy
Elevation Start: 2,600 Elevation End: 2,800 Elevation Gain: 200
Snow-Free: May – Mid-Nov  

Picturesque bridges, waterfalls, and old-growth trees, not to mention two peaceful lakes and a pristine river.

It all creates a brilliant ambiance on the year-round hike along the Greenwater Lakes Trail. Also known as Meeker Lakes, this is a well-traveled trail, mostly because it’s a relatively easy hike in a picturesque setting. A bonus for many, because it is located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, horses and dogs are welcome. I have even seen domestic goats on a leash. For those just getting acquainted with hiking the Pacific Northwest, this trail is a great introduction, not to mention a terrific choice for families.

A great early season hike, the fairly level trail follows the Greenwater River upstream through a cathedral of old-growth Douglas fir, arriving at the first of two lakes at 1.7 miles.

This is the smaller of the two with side trails to secluded shorelines, worth the time to explore. Often this is as far as I will take visitors as they are content to stay here for lunch and the peaceful surroundings. As the main trail continues on to the second lake, you’ll encounter a few more log footbridges crossing the rapids, more rustic than the ones encountered thus far. They add interest to this area making it very photogenic, with the fast-moving water glistening in the light and the rocks and logs covered in thick moss. In less than a half-mile, the second lake comes into view. The shoreline isn’t as accessible as the first one, but fishermen seem to like this one better.

In another 1/2 mile along the river, arrive at a camping spot amongst giant Red Cedars and Douglas Firs… another wonderful place for lunch. The forest briefly opens up to let the sun through and the water is calmer. There’s something resembling a small beach along the shore.

From here, the trail begins to gain elevation as it enters the Norse Peak Wilderness.

At 3.2 miles from the trailhead, there’s a fork in the trail, to the right is Lost Lake and to the left is Echo Lake. Each destination is about 3.5 miles from the fork and turns an easy day hike into a strenuous one, more because of the distance than the difficulty, but also a little steeper grade. You can literally hike forever in this area, making it a favorite trail for overnight hikers and horse people to explore. From here you can connect with many other trails, such as Corral Pass, Crystal Mountain, and the Pacific Crest Trail… if you want to hike to Mexico.

This is one of those trails you can hike year-round.

Each season offers its own beauty. It’s a great place to be on a hot summer day since most of the trail is in the shade of this beautiful forest. Once we even took an air mattress to enjoy the water, but the bugs ended up enjoying us instead. And in the autumn, if you are looking for fall color, this is an excellent place to be. The vine maples are spectacular the first week in October! And when the snow flies, the trail turns into a winter wonderland. (Note: If there is a lot of snow, Road 70 is a challenge.)

As you hike this area, take the time to explore the trails along the river or around the lakes. You may find a place to sit and restore your soul in the roar of the rapids or the peacefulness of the lakes. If you need a place to get away from it all, this is a great choice. And don’t forget your bug spray in the summer months!

From Enumclaw, the roundtrip, (including drive, hike, and lunch) won’t take more than 5 hours.

Don’t forget to stop at the White River Ranger Station in Enumclaw or at the Greenwater Store for your National Forest Pass. It will cost $5.00 for a day pass or $30.00 for an annual pass (in 2011). In the winter, snow park passes are also required.

To get to the trailhead of this wonderful hike, follow State Route 410 from Enumclaw through the small town of Greenwater. A couple of miles out of town, take a left on Road 70. Stay on this road for 8 miles and cross a bridge. Take a right at the sign for the trail. Across another small bridge and a short distance down this road is the parking lot. Vehicles turn right, those with horse trailers turn left. NOTE: Just before entering the parking lots there is a large sign on the left with historical information about the Naches Trail, originally used by the Indians of the area to connect to the tribes around Yakima. Later, it was used by fur traders and settlers coming to the Puget Sound area. An interesting piece of history worth taking the time to read.

– Mary Janosik, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert


Starting Point: 47.10594337751885,-121.47514495239261
Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead: N 47° 06′ 21, W 121° 28′ 30

Q: Where’s the nearest campground?

A: The Dalles Campground is the closest campground. Via Forest Service Rd 70 and WA-410 E it’s approximately a 15-mile, about 25 minutes to drive from the campground to the Greenwater Lakes trailhead.

Q: Where’s the nearest lodging?

A: Lodging in the Greenwater/Crystal Mountain area offers Alta Crystal Resort, a series of vacation rentals and Crystal Mountain hotels. To browse options click here.