Ranking: 5/5 I don’t believe I’ve ever given any hike a perfect score, but this one just had to be it! For sheer beauty, ease of getting there, variety, and things to see and do, this one has it all! The fall colors alone are worth any effort expended to get here, and the many things to do and explore are just icing on the cake. Sure, there aren’t any flowers blooming anymore, but…There’s also no bugs!!!!
Difficulty: 4/10.This is definitely the easiest hike we went on this year, and compared to the years of backcountry exploring we’ve done, it ranks in the top 3 for ease of access. Of course, you have to pay to get here via High Camp, but the reward is worth it. The trails around High Camp can cause some confusion on which is the fastest way to the top, but with a good map/GPS they are navigated easily enough. Once on top of McCue ridge junction with trail #1574, the trail is easy to follow, and provides only a moderate grade at times.
Getting there: Take I-90E towards Spokane, and turn right onto exit 85 for WA 970 N towards Wenatchee. Turn left, and cross over I-90, and then turn right onto WA 970 N and in 9.9 miles the road turns into US 97N which you will follow for another 35.2 miles. Then, turn left at the “T” to 97 S. This brings you up the ramp to US 2 W towards Leavenworth. Continue to follow US 2 W 22.2 miles, through Leavenworth, and turn left on Coulter Creek Rd. This will be directly across the highway from the Nason Creek Rest stop. Pull into the chain link enclosure, this is the parking lot for the Scottish Lakes High Camp.
Maps: The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Map, put out by ALPS, is a good source, and making your own on Topo.com. Also, Green Trails Map #177, Chiwaukum Mts. Of course, once you’re at High Camp, you will have to navigate their trail system to get to McCue Ridge, they have a giant wooden map outside of the lodge to help show you the way…
Permits: You will need to make a reservation with High Camp to get to Larch Lake this way, check their website for current pricing, Scottish Lakes High Camp. They will have the self issue permits available for hiking into the Alpine Lakes wilderness at the lodge.
Larch Lake via High Camp added 11/15/2012
After visiting this lake during the summer, and seeing the abundance of larch trees, we were intrigued by the aspect of what it would look like adorned in fall colors, so we planned another trip to this lake for a photo taking expedition…That, and I wanted to be able to submit this trip as a Backpacker GPS trip. Our last foray, up and over Deadhorse pass was deemed a little too extreme to count as a hikeable trail, certainly not one that I would heartily recommend to all.
This trip, however, falls into the category of eminently hikeable, as it’s a mere 5 miles from High Camp to beautiful Larch Lake. All you have to do is reserve a spot at High Camp.
“…and wait for our chariot (a 4 wheel drive Suburban) to ferry us up to the lodge…”
We arrive at the parking lot for High Camp around 4:00pm, and wait for our chariot (a 4 wheel drive Suburban) to ferry us up to the lodge. It’s a 45 minute ride up a gated logging road, and the higher up you go, the more rugged the road becomes, definitely only for high clearance vehicles! During the winter, the Suburban’s can only go so far, and then the rest of the way up is a ride on a snowmobile! Sounds cool, maybe something to think about for later…High Camp was originally a backcountry ski destination with humble beginnings, and over the years, as more and more cabins have been added/upgraded, there is now room at the inn for more summer, fall and winter adventures. Be sure and check out their website for more info! The hosts that were there when we visited were very helpful and nice.
Our spot for the night was in the loft of the lodge, and the lodge has hot/cold running water with a gas stove, so making dinner for the night was a nice change from the normal of cooking over a Jetboil…As the day turned to night, the lodge became a meeting place of sorts for some of the cabin tenants who gathered to share stories and travel experiences, some more colorful than others. You know who you are…
You could tell fall was in the air, as Dan and I chose to light a fire in the fire pit outside. It seemed that we just couldn’t get close enough to the struggling flames to keep our bones warm, so around 10:00pm, we decided to turn in. We’re hoping for clear weather tomorrow, and the cloudless night sky is encouraging, if not a little cold.