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Alpinejo.tripod.com: Backcountry Trails Guide
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Washington Backcountry Trails

Kev showing off his new raft in Otter Lake

Bonnie Lake

Azure Lake


Otter Lake Loop

Otter Lake

Definition of terms below
Location: West Fork Foss River in the Alpine Lake Wilderness
Directions: Head up Hwy 2 on the west side of Stevens Pass, take the No 68 Foss River road, stay straight at the fork to Road No 6830, then at the next fork take Road No 6835 to the left, then continue to the trailhead.
Difficulty: Strenuous bushwhack to lakes
Elevation +/- About 10,000 ft Total elevation gain 
Distance: 21+ Miles Roundtrip
Rating: 10 out of 10
Fishing: Awesome
Lake info: One-Way Trip Mileage from trailhead, elevation Gain, fishing, lake size, depth:
Delta Lake 3.5 miles, 2200 feet in, good, 47 acres, 60 feet deep
Otter Lake 5 miles, 3300 feet in, awesome, 183 acres, 240 feet deep
Bonnie Lake 7 miles, 4400 feet in, awesome, 10 acres
Tank Lakes 8 miles, 5600 feet in, did not try (frozen)
Azurite Lake 6.3 miles, 4000 feet in, good, 44 acres, deep
Azure Lake 7.2 miles, 4400 feet in, did not try (partially frozen)
Angeline Lake 8 miles, 4800 feet in, did not try, 198 acres, 100+ feet deep
Chetwoot Lake 7.8 miles, 4750 feet in, did not try (frozen), 113 acres, 100+ feet deep
Scenery: Very brushy, big mountains around, alpine lakes, rugged alpine country
Map: Printable Topo Map
Trip Date: July 5, 2001; 5:00am - July 8, 2:30pm roundtrip to trailhead 

Otter Lake Loop is worth a weekend visit. We opted for a 4 day backcountry adventure.

Trail Notes: The trail starts off nice for a short spell then climbs a bit more than I remember on past Trout Lake, the trail is in great shape until you make it the the turn off near the outlets of Malachite and Copper Lakes-then the adventure begins. There is a fisherperson's trail all the way up to Otter-a bit faint to nonexistent in places.

Day 1: West Fork Foss Lakes trailhead to Otter Lake el. 3925 feet-
Hike rated: 4 hours, strenuous 5.5 miles, elevation +3300

   My brother and I left the Foss Lakes trailhead at 5AM (4 other cars in the parking lot) and steamed up the trail to Trout Lake-there were a few tents in the woods. On past Trout Lake there is a huge evergreen tree approx. 9+ feet in diameter, worth a picture. We soon reached the Malachite and Copper outlet stream, you will know you are there because it is the first sharp corner heading up. From here drop down staying on the north side of the outlet stream, about 80-100 feet before getting to the West Fork of the Foss River there are two logs you can shimmy across- make sure you find these logs because the trail picks up here on the other side. The fisherperson's trial is on the west side of the river (always keep the river on your left side). The trail is in better shape then when I went a few years ago but still this is prime Washington bushwhacking. Continuing on over hidden logs, up/down some root climbs you can faintly see the outlet waterfall from Delta Lake there is a thick brushy patch here,  if you loose the trail just struggle your way towards the waterfall and pick the trail up there. Follow the 'trail' up to the log jam on Delta Lake and cross over to the east side of the lake to the campsite. We took a short break, so wanting to cure my fishing bug- I pulled out my fishing pole and caught 1 little cutthroat trout, that was enough I had no idea how good the fishing would soon be!
   Once at Delta Lake the 'trail' heads up from this campsite, following the contours of the lake. At the end of Delta lake (take second and admire all the waterfalls coming into it from Big Heart, Angeline and Otter Lakes) cross the maze of creeks, look for a log that crosses one of them that heads east, the trail picks up here. Once on the the 'trail' the Otter Lake outlet will be on your right, continue up to the waterfall. With the waterfall and a huge rock face on your right, scramble up the boulder field into the chute and the trail will pick along the creek again. Your almost 'home free' now. Follow the 'trail' along side of a marshy swamp, the trail meanders through the forest heading back towards the outlet stream. Soon you will see the great Otter Lake. There are numerous campsites, some better then others (there is one with a rock oven near the lake shore).
   We set up our base camp at about 9AM and pumped up our rafts and heading out fishing. Life does not get much better then fishing from a raft on a sunny summer day. We fished the day away exploring the lake shore for the coming days adventures.

Day 2: Otter Lake to Bonnie Lake el. 5100 feet and Tank Lakes el. 5900 feet-
Hike rated: 10 hours, strenuous 6.5 miles, elevation +2600

   We ate some breakfast and jumped into our rafts and rowed down to the southeastern end of Otter Lake, there we pulled our boats up on shore and started bushwhacking up the outlet stream from Bonnie Lake and others. This was a brutal portion of the trip, I am glad we only had daypacks. Once we passed the first tributary stream we started cutting up the rocky overgrown slope. We fought our way through alders, devils club and many more until we crested the ridge near Bonnie Lake. What an awesome alpine lake- set in a rocky basin with a huge rock face on the back and southern sides. We fished and caught numerous 6 to 14 inch + rainbow/cutthroat/brook trout. We went for a great alpine lake swim--brrrr. While exploring all the way around the lake we found a nice campsite and fire ring near the outlet. We ate a bit of lunch and set our sights on making it over the next ridge into the Necklace Valley. We scrambled up the rocky creek bed to the top. The scenery up on the top was awe inspiring, a true alpine region--virtually no trees, lots of rock slabs and intermittent small waterholes. We wandered around a bit up here and noticed the only other person we saw on this 4 day trip was camped near one of the snow covered upper lakes. We figured we would try a different route down to Bonnie Lake so we meandered back towards the cliff looking back down on Bonnie Lake. We had to slide down a few cliffs and hold on for dear life in a few places. The sun was soon to go behind the ridge so we headed back down to Otter Lake-which was not much easier than coming up due to all the cliffs. At Otter Lake we fished our way back to the base camp and got back at about 9:30PM.

Day 3: Otter Lake to Azurite Lake el. 4520 feet, Azure Lake el. 5000, Chetwoot el. 4905 and Angeline Lake el. 4609-
Hike rated: 11 hours, strenuous 12.5 miles, elevation +4600

   We had some pancakes and jumped into our rafts and rowed down to the southwestern end of Otter Lake, there we deflated our rafts and stuck them into our daypacks. It is about a 1/2 hour scramble up to Azurite Lake, not too bad compared to the day before. Once at the lake my brother started pumping up his raft, so I went out for a snorkeling adventure-trying to scout out some fish. The lake was a bit cold out in the deep water! I then got my raft pumped up, and headed out fishing. The fishing is not as good as Otter or Bonnie but it was still good. The fish in this lake hang out in the deep stuff. We fished for a few hours then ate some lunch and packed our gear into the rafts and rowed to the back side of the lake. We pulled our boats on shore and headed up the back rock basin. Once on top we meandered on to Azure Lake, we were hot so we striped down to our swimming trunks and went for a 'quick' dip-this lake was the coldest I had been in for awhile, it still had snow on part of it, we made about 4 dives a piece off the cliff. We dried off and jumped back into the still snow covered landscape heading up past the small pothole lakes towards Little Chetwoot and Chetwoot Lakes. Chetwoot was still snow covered so we did not venture down to it's lakeshore. We then headed over to take a look at the enormous Angeline Lake. We headed on back to Azurite Lake and did some snorkeling and fishing. Then jumped into our boats and rowed to the other side and scrambled on down to Otter Lake. We fished until after dark- the fish were biting like crazy-12 inch+ every cast!

Day 4: Otter Lake to West Fork Foss Lakes trailhead el. 1600 feet
Hike rated: 4 hours, strenuous 5.5 miles.

   We packed up camp did some fishing and headed back towards the trailhead. Once at Delta Lake we had worked up a good sweat, so we went swimming, I unpacked the mask and snorkel and went out exploring the lake bottom. I saw numerous good sized fish. If you never had tried snorkeling in alpine lakes-my suggestion is: try it, you will love it! We bushwhacked the remainder of the way back to the West Fork Foss Lakes trail and were amazed of how easy it was to pick-em-up and lay-them-down on a nicely maintained trail. We passed a few people at Trout Lake and a few more near the river crossing. One funny thing to note: at Trout Lake we passed a couple drinking their wine and enjoying the scenery and they said "You guys look pretty hardcore", I had to chuckle.

The bugs were viscous--take some bug spray.

Fishing--  awesome fishing for cutthroat, brook and rainbow trout some up to 14+ inches. Take a raft, these lakes are big and it beats bushwhacking along the shores to the next lake. We had night fishing tournaments off the log jam each night - it was a hoot the fishing was unreal!

No reservations needed,  just fill out a backcountry permit at the trailhead and display your forest pass in your vehicle.

 Do it again? You bet! This area with its scenery and lakes ranks right up there with the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Wear a pair of long pants and a long sleeved shirt, otherwise the brush will eat you up.

Please Note: There is not a trail to these lakes, it may be a dangerous adventure if you are not an experienced backcountry nut and/or don't have the correct equipment.

Other Links:
VTRAIL Trip Report on Delta Lake
WTA Trip Report

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