Seizing the Fall Snow Window in the Cascades

When you hike with short dogs, your season pretty much ends when there is deep snow in the mountains. Unless the trail is hard-packed, they have to plow through the snow and tire out before we get very far. The typical snow pattern in the Cascade Mountains is: dump some snow in early fall; stop for a while so the snow can melt and frustrate the skiers; and come back in November for the winter.

We got a significant snow fall in the mountains and then there was a break. I thought I would take the opportunity to get some last hikes out of the way before the snow kept us out. I decided to take Chester and Gretel to one of our favorite hiking spots — Snow Lake.

The most recent report said there was a layer of snow and ice on the trail so I spent a groggy morning tracking down my gaiters, Yak Trax and the dog's cold-weather jackets.

As we drove to the trailhead, I started to feel the couch call. We had already gotten a late start and it was grey, foggy and I couldn't see any peaks. I had to play a few head games with myself to keep my motivation up so I didn't go home and curl up with the dogs on the couch. As I drove higher we hit a wall. The fog immediately disappeared and was replaced by sunny, clear skies. Instantly, I felt my spirits lift.

It turned out to be an amazing hike. The sun came out and warmed the air to spring temperatures, it was a weekday so the normally crowded trail was pretty solitary, and the snow remaining on the mountain peaks made for some excellent views. We passed a few small groups of people on the way up who, as usual, cracked a joke about my short-legged mountain climbers.

 Snow Lake Hike Washington

The hike to the Source Lake turnoff took about 20 minutes less than it did when we hiked on a crowded day with 4 dogs. I still haven't explored the whole length of trail to Source Lake. The unknown and the amazing views were calling to me. I worried we would be short on time though so after stopping for a quick snack break we pushed on for the top.

Another pleasant surprise on the trail was that there was no snow on the trail and it was dry. With the sun and dry trails we didn't need any of the gear I had spent the morning looking for and was lugging up the hill on my back.

American Pika

Toward the top we passed one of the several boulder fields where the American Pika like to hide. It's fun to hear them squeak as we approach and occasionally I can spot one perched on a rock.

We stopped at the lake lookout for our first photo opportunity and headed down to the lake for lunch. We took our time enjoying the views of the lake and mountains. We climbed back up the ridge and stopped one more time at the lookout before hurrying down the trail to the car before daylight disappeared.

You did what with your weiner

Snow levels are forecasted to drop to 3,000 — 4,000 feet this next week and rain is on the way. It looks like the snow is coming to the mountains and our window may have just closed. It's a good thing we got out and hiked this one while we did.

In my opinion, this hike is the best bang for your buck if you only have a half a day or are just visiting Seattle. The trailhead is an hour from the City and the 6.4 miles round trip took us about 4 hours. The 1,000 feet of climbing, most of which is in the last mile before the lake, gives you a good workout but isn't a killer. I think the views are just amazing. So does everyone else though so try to hit this crowded trail on a weekday.

Jessica Rhae Williams

Jessica lives in the outdoor Mecca of Seattle with her husband and two miniature Dachshunds. She is the Chief Blogger at - a Top 50 Northwest Dog Blog and 2013 Best Active Living Blog Nominee — where she writes about hiking, traveling, and fun with her dogs. She discusses pet trends and tips monthly on her radio segment, The Dog Buzz, and is a social media strategist who helps bloggers spread their message more effectively. She spends her time outdoors hiking, mountain biking and snowboarding.

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Jessica Rhae Williams
As a member of #TeamSierra, Jessica Rhae Williams receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Jessica lives in Seattle with her husband and two miniature Dachshunds, Chester and Gretel, and loves hiking, traveling, and adventuring. Through her blog, You Did What With Your Weiner, she shares stories of climbing mountains, breaking stereotypes and living the good life with her dogs. She is founder of #AdventureDogChat and regularly tweets about hiking, fitness, and pets.
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