Dayhike on West Fork Foss River to Copper & Malachite Lakes
8.6 miles round trip, 2500′ elevation gain
May 2, 2015
Hwy 2/Skykomish, WA area
We chose to venture out to Copper Lake with our friends Lisa & Joe. We hiked here last year over the Summer Solstice weekend and saw a good bit of snow once we reached Copper Lake. But with the low snow pack this year, we decided we’d try it earlier. It was a success as there was hardly any snow at the lake.
The directions to the trail head are easy to follow and well-marked. The road is one of the better dirt roads we’ve driven on. The exciting points include driving under a railroad bridge and thru a small spillway. The spillway may sound intimidating, but unless the river is flowing high it is passable by any car. There were about 15 cars at the trail head when we arrived at 10am.
For the first 1.6 miles of the hike you follow the West Fork Foss River through a second growth forest crossing into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness within the first 1/4 mile of the hike. The grade is gentle and a few craggy peaks including Malachite Peak tower over this valley providing some nice views. There are a few larger old-growth trees that survived the logging in this area and one is the largest diameter tree we have seen in WA to this date (see picture). You cross over the river in this section on an impressive new bridge and the massive tree is found soon after this. Soon after the tree you come to Trout Lake. This lake would make an ideal family backpacking destination and we saw a dad out with three kids packing up camp from the night before.
The hike gets tougher after Trout Lake gaining 1900′ in 2.3 miles but it also gets a little prettier! As you climb up past Trout Lake you get spectacular views of a waterfall flowing out of Copper Lake. The views of Silver Eagle Peak and Bald Eagle Peak and the valley below them open up as well. You will break a sweat on this portion of the hike as the plants surrounding the trail seem to emit a lot of humidity through this climb. Fortunately you can find nice breezes coming off the waterfall to help cool off.
Once you make it over a bridge at the top of the waterfall, the trail levels out and you meander through some marshes before coming to the outlet of Copper Lake. You must hop over some boulders to make it to the end of the lake where the views open up. Last year, it was much more difficult to make it over the outlet as there were several foot tall snow banks on either side. This year, it was much easier without the snow. We made it to Copper Lake in just over two hours.
We enjoyed the views for a while, had some lunch, and even got to see some wildlife! We saw a number of frogs (see photo) in the log jam at the north end of the lake and several large clusters of their eggs. We heard them before we saw them and were amazed at how well they blended in with the logs.
We headed back down on the trail and made the short but steep jaunt up to Malachite Lake. The lake is smaller than Copper Lake but we got a nice reflection of the mountains off it as a result.
As we were passing Trout Lake on the way out, Maggie had the urge to get in the lake! We all joined her. It was quite cold, but also refreshing. Considering it was only May 2nd in the mountains, we will take it!
We saw a good number of people on the hike, including some families and some dogs. The hike never felt crowded though. A number of people were out backpacking and it got us excited for doing more of that in the near future! We definitely recommend this hike if you want to experience the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Now is a great time to go and you could probably continue on a little further than Copper Lake without much snow if you are staying the night or out for a longer day.