Ranking: 3/5 It’s a long slog through old growth forest to finally reach the pay-off, which is spectacular ridge top views of iconic Mt. Rainier, but once on top, all the effort fades away, as you drink in awesome long distance views of your surroundings, including long distance vistas of the North Cascades. During fall, the colors pop, and provide a beautiful Joseph’s coat of color, highlighting the treeless ridge around Noble Knob and pretty George Lake. The return trip downhill from Corral Pass through Echo Lake, is a long hike through deep woods, with relatively little to look at, other than forest canopy.
Difficulty:6/10 The only thing that keeps this from a “5”, is the fact that the last day, (if you choose to do it that way) is over 15 miles, mostly through forest. The trails are well marked and easy to follow, especially as you get closer to the large lakes. Other than that, this is a pretty straight forward hike, the only place that you will have to watch for, is the cut-off to George Lake, as it’s an Elk trail.
Getting there: Take I-5N towards Tacoma, and turn right on exit 127 to merge onto WA 512E towards Puyallup, and stay on 512E for 11.9 miles. Stay in the right lane, as you will briefly merge onto WA 167N towards WA 410E Seattle/Yakima. Stay in the right lane for 1.1 miles, and it will veer right onto WA 410E to Sumner/Yakima. Stay on WA 410E for the rest of the way, another 15.6 miles to Enumclaw. Drive through the town of Enumclaw, and continue on WA 410E for another 20.3 miles to Greenwater Road #70. It’s the first left hand turn past the Greenwater Fire dept. building, on the outskirts of the town of Greenwater. Follow road #70 another 9.6 miles to the trail sign, on right hand side of road, Greenwater Lakes trail #1176. The road is paved to the parking lot, and there is a vault toilet at the trailhead.
Maps: : Again, since there doesn’t seem to any one good option, we used My Topo.com, as our guide. From this website, you can print your own map, which will be specifically tailored for your hike.
Permits: You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead
Lost Lake, Echo Lake GPS track added 04/13/2011
Our last overnighter for the season, and it feels as if the door is being slammed shut on the hiking season…With cooler temps, rain, and fog during most of the season, it feels as if summer never really arrived. Or, if it did, it was a whirlwind affair, just breezing through between the seasons. This last hike will include Brian, his dog, Merci, and I, for an overnighter into the Norse Peak Wilderness, for a loop hike that will pass many lakes. And miles…Unbeknownst to us at the time, as I “miscalculated” the total mileage for this trip.
3300ft gain/315ft loss. 8 miles. Since this is so close to home, we were able to leave the house around 9:00am, and still arrive at the trailhead a little after 10:00am. Nice! The weather is promising to improve, (at least according to the weatherman), even though the day is starting out cool, damp, and gray. A few showers pelt the windshield on the way to the trail, and we hope this isn’t indicative of what’s to come…
The beginning of the hike is smooth, and the trail winds through old growth forest in a gradual uphill to the first lakes along this trek, Greenwater Lakes, a duo of small proportions, that are popular in the summer, for their close proximity to the trail head, and shallow depths, easily heated by the sun. Today, however, they are vacant, and the only sound we hear is the call of songbirds. At the farthest of the two lakes, there are several log footbridges that span the Greenwater River, that feed the lakes, and beyond. It’s more of a creek, really, but after the last foot bridge before continuing up, are pretty rapids cascading down over moss covered rocks, a theme that will repeat itself all along its length.
“…I keep my eyes peeled for edibles, and it helps to curb the boredom…”
Much of the trail, until the “Y” intersection where we bear right towards Lost Lake, will follow its meandering path, and if not visual contact, then definitely within earshot. After the right turn, the way continues upwards, at a moderate pace, and there still isn’t much to see except the trees, and the occasional mushroom dotting the sides of the trail. I keep my eyes peeled for edibles, and it helps to curb the boredom.
Since Brian and I are going on 2 hours sleep, it’s a challenge to keep the mind focused on what we’re doing. We trudge onward like zombies to Lost Lake. Once we reach its shores, we drop our packs, and eat something, needing a quick break.
Lost Lake is calm, and its smooth surface reflects the surrounding hillsides, the image broken occasionally by a fish going airborne momentarily. Small ringlets spread out to mark the spot like a bull’s-eye where the fish made its re-entry. Looking skyward, we are glad to see that the weather seems to be clearing, and an occasional sliver of blue pokes out from under the blanket of gray sky. Hopefully, the trend will continue.
Shouldering our loads once again, we follow the trail to the far end of the lake, and then begin a more challenging hike upwards, for the next 1.2 miles it continues relentlessly up, to gain the top of the ridgeline. Forest gives way to sparser alpine firs, huckleberry brush, and bear grass in abundance. The clearings provide us an opportunity to look further, towards the opposite ridge, turning golden colors to indicate the changing of the seasons.
“…the dominant rock formation sticking up like a hitchhikers thumb is the namesake for this ridge, Noble Knob.”
Finally, we top out on the Noble Knob ridgeline, and even under cloud cover, we can see for miles northward, towards the spiny ridge lines along the North Cascades range, snow covering many of the higher mountains still. Looking west from our location here, the dominant rock formation sticking up like a hitchhikers thumb is the namesake for this ridge, Noble Knob. We’re getting close now! Planning from home, using Google Earth, and poring over map detail, it appears there was a small lake just over a saddle at the base of the knob that looked promising for our nights’ stay, called George Lake.
“…it seemed as if the clouds were just a little lower, they would have been torn open, like a tire on a spike strip…”
There is no official trail, but I had was sure that those who had gone before us, would have beaten some kind of path to its shoreline. I marked possible ways down on the GPS unit, and as soon as we neared our first “POI”, we could see that this was close to the low point of the saddle. So, up we went, and from the top of the saddle, we weren’t disappointed. Below us, was a small alpine lake, ringed by crimson berry brush, and green trees. Very beautiful. From its bowl, you could see the prominent features of northern mountains, pinnacles of sharp peaks that just seemed to brush the lower cloud level, it seemed as if the clouds were just a little lower, they would have been torn open, like a tire on a spike strip.
There was a trail leading down to the water’s edge, and it was easy to follow, only it wasn’t fellow hikers that had blazed the trail, it was elk. Obviously, this was a favorite haunt of theirs, off the beaten path, the trail a series of hoof prints, beating out a dirt track through the shrubbery. Once at the water’s edge, we could see that people had camped here before, fire rings at the prime spots and logs set around them, to provide fireside seats. A small spit of rock juts out in the middle of the lake, creating a kidney shape, and it was on this point, that we made camp.
Our weary feet and backs were relieved to drop the load. The lake is shallow, at its deepest it might come up to chest level, but the majority of the lake is no more than 3 feet deep. I take several pictures, wanting to capture the blazing reds and yellows of fall reflected off the surface of the lake. With no wind, it’s as smooth as glass, and creates a perfect mirror.
“…After twenty casts, and closer scrutiny of the jumpers, it’s obvious that they are so small, the lure I’m using might be as big as they are. Foiled again…”
At first, I’m delighted to see fish jumping, (since I finally brought a pole), so I wet some gear, in hopes of landing the big one…After twenty casts, and closer scrutiny of the jumpers, it’s obvious that they are so small, the lure I’m using might be as big as they are. Foiled again. We tend to bigger matters now, like securing firewood, and pitching camp. Brian has to watch Merci with an eagle eye, for she constantly wants to wade into the water. She minds well, but any unwatched opportunity, she’s looking to get wet.
We’re done eating by 6:30 or so, and start a fire, as the temperatures starting to drop, and the wind’s beginning to pick up. We fight sleep until 9:00, watching the comforting flames consume our ration of firewood, (ok, more like dead sticks and branches), until we can fight it no longer, and turn in. The 3 of us are kept company by the windblown fly that rattles the tent, and the full moon. It’s like sleeping under a street light. No worries, though, we’re glad to see clear skies, and are hopeful that tomorrow will bring more of the same.