Winter Hike: Greenwater Lakes - Visit Rainier

Winter Hike: Greenwater Lakes

Total Ascent: 500 ft to Greenwater Lakes, 1,900 ft (1600 ft in and 300 ft out) to Echo Lake
Highest Point: 3,000 ft to Greenwater Lakes, 4,100 ft to Echo Lake
Total Distance: 4 mi round trip to Greenwater Lakes, 13 mi round trip to Echo Lake
Location: N 47° 5.2500, W 121° 26.8740

A milestone birthday at Greenwater Lakes

In celebration of a milestone birthday in December, family and assorted friends treated me to a surprise birthday hike to Greenwater Lakes. Our party of eight adults, four kids under 12, and three dogs enjoyed an easy, scenic four-mile round-trip hike through forest groves and across sturdy log bridges in various need of repair.

Though packed during warmer months, we encountered just a few hikers on this weekend after Christmas. Icy road conditions, the holidays and cool morning temperatures may have accounted for the dearth of fellow adventurers. Loads of snow that had accumulated on tree boughs showered us with glinting crystals as the sun rose. The wide, mostly flat trail makes an ascent of only 500 feet in two miles –most of that just below the first lake- and is very doable for young hikers and pets. It is also conversation friendly, allowing hikers to walk two or three abreast in some places, with plenty of scenic stops. The trail is mostly forested, providing a nice canopy during showers, but allowing little sun through when temperatures are low.

We enjoyed the sound of the river rushing past, encountered several types of waterfowl, including a swan, and were treated to a “dog star” sighting between lakes. A short hike separates the upper lake from the lower, with a log bridge in between. A jump is required on the upper lake end of the bridge, due to a gap between it and the trail.

Once we passed the upper lake, we enjoyed lunch and refreshments in a large, shaded campsite next to the river. It is important to note that the bridge just beyond the upper lake was destroyed by a falling tree this year, and will likely remain out of commission until spring or summer when it can be replaced.

For more ambitious athletes, the trail continues beyond our lunch spot to Echo Lake. It is another four and a half miles and 1,400 feet from upper Greenwater Lake. The destination is popular with hikers during the summer months.

Greenwater Lakes is truly a hike for all ages and ability levels. It offers a satisfying cross-section of northwest scenery, and glimpses of wildlife along its trails and on the water. Owls, newts, frogs and numerous waterfowl have been spotted on previous sojourns.

As noted, little sunlight reaches the trail to Greenwater Lakes, particularly in wintertime, and temperatures are often several degrees below what they are in town, so layering is highly recommended. The road in is winding and can get icy, so four-wheel or front wheel drive is advisable.

From Enumclaw follow SR 410 to the town of Greenwater. After passing through Greenwater, continue past the fire station to FR 70 on the left. Follow FR 70 just over nine miles to FR 7033. Take a right and follow the road across the creek to the trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.


Written by Kari Desser