Lake 22 is a difficult but rewarding hike off of Mountain Loop Highway outside of Granite Falls. Its peculiar name comes from old railroad or mining crews who named waterways numerically in that area.
My mom and I decided to get out of the city and try a hike up north. With raving reviews from my cousin, we decided to go here.
Off of I-5 take Exit 200 heading east. Go straight on 88th Street NE, this turns into Ingraham Boulevard and then turns into 84th Street NE after crossing Highway 9. Turn left onto Highway 92 and go straight through Granite Falls and turn left onto N Alder Avenue. This turns into Mountain Loop Highway. After passing the Verlot area, you’ll see the sign for the trailhead on the right. If you can’t find parking here, there is a day use park on the left a little more ahead that you can park at. You need a Northwest Forest Pass (Federal) or the Federal Parks Pass, NOT the Discover Pass.
This is an easy-to-follow out and back trail.
The entire trail is well-maintained. There are some damp areas and some puddles, regardless of the weather. This is just a really damp area with the creek flowing next to the trail nearly the whole time. At lower elevation there is definitely more wood lining the trail, this tapers off as the trail climbs. It starts to get steep after about a mile as you climb out of the damp forest. Here it turns into rocky switchbacks over exposed talus. This can get very hot and tiring. Despite what elevation maps show, the trail stays steep, rocky and difficult almost until the lake.
Hiking poles are an absolute must on this trail with all of the rocky steepness. My mom found them to be extensively helpful. Ankle-height hiking boots are also a good bet (I used my Vasque Takus), however my mom did this in worn out tennis shoes but slipped a few times. One to two liters of water per person is a good idea, as is a carby snack, since this hike gets very tiring.
The first mile or so is a lovely and gently upward hike through old-growth forest. The sound of the creek is never far off. The trail starts to climb just prior to the one-mile mark. You’ll see a lovely waterfall on the left as the trail climbs.
The trail climbs out of the forest onto rocky talus. Here you’ll be exposed to the sun (or clouds!) off and on for some time. It can get very hot and tiring here. Be sure to take frequent breaks and drink water as you climb on. I stopped at least ten times on this section of the hike, don’t be ashamed to take a break!
After about a mile and a half of this craziness, the trail slowly starts leveling out as you approach the lake. Emphasis on SLOWLY. Once the trail rejoins the creek, you are in the clear, the lake is just ahead.
Anticipation builds as you approach the lake. You see the sky widening and suddenly know you’ve made it.
The lake and its crystal clear water sit in a basin with a gorgeous mountain with waterfalls in the background. It looks like something out of Avatar. It isn’t easy to see in the photo, but there are four main waterfall systems on this mountain.
There is a trail that circumnavigates the lake. We didn’t do that part. We sat on the boardwalk and had a snack and water before descending.
Plan on spending a good portion of the day doing this hike. Roundtrip we spent 4.5 hours, including resting at the top for about a half hour. I wish I had brought two liters of water but I only brought one. This is about three miles each way.