Free loading birds in your backpack the minute you turn around:n=n1 x n2/m2 x f(t²)
Your journey starts out easily enough, gradually gaining elevation along the Foss River and it’s mostly dry flood channels.
Keep an eye out to your right for Shoestring Falls, descending into the Foss on it’s west bank.
About a mile in you’ll come to a very well built bridge which, if it’s secretly anthropomorphic, is likely counting the days until the next major flooding event, the likes of which destroyed it’s predecessor.
Standing on the bridge, you are a little less than a mile down trail from Trout Lake.
Along the remainder of the way there are a couple of points of interest;
One is an absolutely monstrous tree (can’t miss it). If you hike this trail with friends I can guarantee we’ll have one thing in common; a picture of someone standing in front of this tree.
The other is marked by a rusted 2-½in pipe crossing the trail. Without going into too much detail; above this pipe, blasted into the flanks of Malachite Peak is the 772′ long Imperial #2 tunnel, and the 112′ Vine Maple Prospect.
Below the pipe, along the banks of the Foss River, is the site of the old Imperial Power Plant. Not much remains, but the occasional rusted metal relic can sometimes be found.
At Trout Lake take a breather, cast a line or stay the night at one of it’s campsites.
The trail begins to climb significantly after passing the west shore of the lake, almost 2000′ in less than two miles!
Silver Eagle Peak dominates the eastern horizon as you switchback up through mixed forest and shrub. At one point you’ll pass a corner with easy access to a slabby watercourse, great for dipping your head into and refilling empty water bottles.
Malachite Falls becomes visible as you gain elevation, it’ll be filling your ears with it’s 618′ of waterfally-ness before you can see it.
You’ll continue to gain elevation, eventually surpassing the waterfall and coming to an intersection with the Lake Malachite trail.
NOTE: You may also notice a sign near here that says “Campfires prohibited beyond this point” This meansALLpoints along this trail beyond this sign(Specifically any point above 4000′)
Lake Malachite is only a short, sorta steep hike from here, offering great views, a few campsites, and fishing.
Less than half a mile from the intersection you’ll cross a fairytale-esque bridge of perfectly placed boulders before setting eyes upon beautiful Copper Lake.
The popular campsites fill up quick, but the lake is spacious enough to allow some breathing room if that’s what you are looking for.
If Copper Lake isn’t your thing, the trail continues along it’s eastern shore towards Little Heart Lake.
Not a whole lot jumps out at you on this section of trail, but you will pass over the tailings pile of a mining prospect at the south end of the lake, and there are a couple of established campsites along the way.
Little Heart Lake seems a little less hospitable by comparison, it’s smaller, and seems crammed into the surrounding rock. Upon first glance, shoreline access also seems extremely limited.
Exploring around however reveals some established campsites, and ample talus shoreline if you are a little more adventurous.
Leaving Little Heart Lake, the trail again begins to climb, gaining a little under 1000ft in a mile, then losing a few hundred feet on the way to Big Heart Lake.
The views through here become more dramatic.
Looking back you’ll see Trout Lake (perhaps bringing back memories of when your legs were not on fire) Delta Lake is down below, Otter Lake peeks at you from across the valley, and then finally Big Heart Lake, shimmering at you through the trees.
The first time you approach Big Heart Lake is likely to stick with you for the rest of your life…
You walk in on top of a little ridge that parallels a small arm of the lake. The water is deep, and bluer than anything you’ve yet seen, not unlike that mysterious fluid barber’s put their combs in.
Here the official trail ends, there are a few campsites available in the immediate area, and a couple more hidden about.
For the ambitious hiker, this may only be the base camp, for there are numerous boot paths leading to many destinations: Angeline and Azurite Lakes, Camp Robber Peak, Chetwoot Lake, you could even make it a loop back down the Necklace Valley.
The West Fork Foss river trail is your oyster.
Bearing that in mind, leave your oyster better than you found it; pack it in, pack it out, leave no trace, take only pictures, leave only footprints, I’m sure you know them all.
Basically; Don’t be “that guy”.
THE GETTING THERE
Firstly, I’d suggest driving to Skykomish to procure a pre-hike sandwich, or some campin’ booze at the ever friendly and delicious Sky Deli.
After filling up at Skykomish, head east on the “2” and you’ll pass the Skykomish Ranger Station, keep your eyes peeled for the Foss River Road branching south (right) from the highway. Take it.
A little over a mile in you’ll pass beneath a gargantuan railroad trestle, and then hit a fork. Stay right.
You’ll pass the Necklace Valley trailhead on your left in another half mile, and a half mile past that is your left turn for the West Fork Foss River Trail#1064. The turn is signed, but can be missed.
Two miles from the intersection and you’ll be there.
The trailhead has ample parking and a pit toilet, but on summer weekends, try and come early because this is a popular trail, and is steadily gaining in popularity with every new Ballard condo.
THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
Currently a NW trailpass or other qualifying document (America the beautiful interagency pass) is required at the trailhead.
In addition to provided links,
Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997
This journey begins at the Bare Mountain trailhead, approx. 20 miles out of North Bend down the North Fork road.
Elevation gain: 4000’±
Mileage: 10mi RT±
Ice cold lakes mocking you on a blazing hot day:4
(fortunately Bear Lake is along the way, and pleasantly swimmable!)
The Bare Mountain trail begins upon a very unpleasant substrate of grapefruit sized rocks, which are just a pain in the butt to walk on, especially on the way down, and especially when wet.
The second obstacle of note is the Bear Creek crossing which can be very treacherous during the melt or other high water.
The trail continues along, passing over Bear creek once again, but this time across a steadily deteriorating bridge.
After the bridge, the trail surface turns to dirt and is much more agreeable to walk upon.
Forest gives way to open slopes of Bracken Fern and shrubbery. At about 2 miles you will reach an intersection consisting of a switchback sharply heading left at a 20˚ angle, or a rough hewn trail heading straight ahead.
Heading straight leads to Bear Basin, while the switchback leads to Bare Mountain. Go straight.
The trail leads over a few old bridges in varying states of decay, proceeds to pass some mining debris and aircraft wreckage before reaching another intersection. This time take a left.
This leads to a small open area with scattered debris. Look for a trail heading uphill into the woods. (At the time of this writing it’s marked by a purple dog poop bag)
Keep heading up, over a small bridge made of old pipe, then passing an established camp along the creek.
The trail continues uphill, becoming more rough hewn the higher you get.
You’ll break out of the woods and onto alpine shrubs and talus. Here you might notice the light colored tailing piles of a couple of mines above you. You’ll want to work your way up towards the one on the right.
Climbing the tailings pile will put you in front of an open adit. To the right of it follow the boot path heading up the hill.
Things begin to steepen up here, and in wetter years or during the melt, this area is more or less a waterfall. There is one section that has a helper rope. It comes in handy, but the user agreement clearly states that the rope accepts no responsibility should it break.
The next stop is Bear Lake.
If you intend to overnight, this isn’t a bad place to bivouac for the night.
Leaving the lake, climb up the talus toward the gap to the NW. Here you’ll get your first view of Mt.Phelps, as well as the Paradise Lakes.
Let’s call this Paradise Gap. No wait, I got a better idea! Let’s call it Behr Gap! Gotta stick with the naming consistency!
Anyway, from here gain the ridge to the east. This is the western ridge of Canoe Peak.
Standing atop the ridge will reveal Lennox Mountain, as well as the long traverse you’ll have to surmount to get there. If you keep a good pace, the average hiker can expect to get to the summit in about 2-3 hours from here.
Descend the ridge until it’s more level and head east across boulder sized talus, traversing your way towards Lennox.
Soon you’ll come to a flat meadow area, which is also your last chance for water for some time. This is also a good place to assess the terrain and make your plan.
Gaining the ridge is obvious, but where?
Much of the ridge wall is sheer cliff as you’ll see. Stay low, but on the talus. There will be a treed portion which hides a gap after you ascend loose talus and steep heather.
This will put you on the ridge, looking down upon Coney Basin.
Now head NE, staying below the ridgeline itself.
For the most part this is just more talus travel, but there is a short section in which you’ll make use of narrow meadow ledges to cross some short cliffs.
Eventually you’ll run into a deep gully. Parallel it up the talus, looking for another heather gap.
This will put you on top of the ridge, as well as give you a look at lovely Coney Lake and your quarry; Lennox Summit.
At this point just aim yourself toward the summit and enjoy a walk on top of the world through alpine meadows, heather and world class views.
You made it!
If your legs aren’t noodles by now, the hike back will seal the deal.
Diminutive Anderson Lake lies at the end of the abandoned and little known Dog Mountain trail. While only a few hundred feet down the road from the more popular Bare Mountain trailhead, the Dog Mountain trail sees very few hikers over the course of the season.
The trail is rough, muddy and sometimes difficult to follow, and so far as I’ve determined, doesn’t lead to the summit of Dog Mountain.
However it is quite beautiful and provides great views of the area especially in the upper portions as you amble across bare rock slabs and alpine meadows.
Elevation gain: 3500’±
Other people you will likely see:0±
The trail starts out at an abandoned bridge. It’s deck is sturdy enough to walk on, but has some very large holes. Don’t fall.
The journey continues along a derelict road grade, crossing two more bridges before gradually climbing up to the original trail.
Occasionally you will see remnants of the trail infrastructure; decaying puncheon, rock retaining walls and well graded footpath. Strangely some of the more recent deadfalls have been cut and cleared, but by whom…it’s anybody’s guess.
Much of the trail is overgrown, rough hewn and steadily eroding.
When you reach the higher sections of trail you are traveling through a beautiful basin of low growing conifers, alpine meadows and wide rock slabs. During the early melt these slabs are like wide and lazy waterfalls.
It’s easy to lose the way as you cross the slabs, but there are a few cairns to look for at the time of this writing. When in doubt continue in an easterly direction. After the slabs the trail is easier to pick up in the heather.
You’ll eventually climb up to a gap in the steep ridge that until now was not visible. Here you will get your first sight of Anderson Lake down below. Also you will get an interesting view of the Middle Fork Valley and it’s peaks; Treen, Garfield, Preacher, even Kaleetan and Chair in the distance.
At the time of this writing there is some flagging soon after you flip flop the ridge via the gap. To your right is the way to Anderson Lake, down below is the way up to Pt.5312 (or so I think it’s called).
Heading right you’ll pass talus and steep cliffs above you. The trail is often undefined here, but continue on. Eventually you will reach an old downed log. The “trail” seems to continue past here, but terminates shortly thereafter.
You’ll find yourself standing above a steep-ish, but easy enough to descend talus slope leading right to the lake’s shore. Make your way down and you’re there!
On a hot summer day this is an excellent place for swimming. It’s shallow enough to warm up so as to not freeze your, uh, parts off, but stays cool enough to refresh.
Also, because it’s so secluded it makes a great place for skinny dipping!
There exist a couple of primitive campsites around the lake if you’d like to spend the evening.
At the south side of the lake is a boulder field that offers a mostly unobstructed view of the Middle Fork Valley and points beyond.
I didn’t try fishing during my visit, but also did not see any fish activity. If you were to ask me, I’d wager there are no fish in this lake.
All in all I’d suggest this trip for anyone who seeks seclusion in the mountains. I can almost guarantee you will not see another human being out here, even on the weekend.
During the right season blueberries are abundant, and wildflowers abound. Great views are frequent and there are even some impressive old growth specimens along the way.
Anyway, as always, leave it better than you found it, pack it in, pack it out and pack out any other jerkoff’s crap you might find.
I went to Lake Francis in July of 2013, and due to the difficulty of getting there, I probably won’t be back for quite some time. I thought though it would be worth regaling to you the tale of Francis Lake.
It started with a map, a blue dot and a black line on a map to be more precise. I don’t remember where I found it, online somewhere, but it showed that at some point there was a trail to Francis Lake. I was determined to find it.
Searching the internet brought up some clues, very old trip reports or anecdotes regarding the lake, mostly from fishermen. One of them even mentioned the old trail, which really got my hopes up. So, equipped with the essentials, and my fishing pole I set out one July day towards West Fork Miller river.
The old road is long abandoned now, and has largely been converted into a hiking trail. Some years ago it was very rare to see anyone along it’s grade, but in recent years it has gained some popularity with Boulderers, and don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s slated for new trails with the whole Wild Sky Wilderness expansion.
I’ve spent much time up the Miller river over the years searching for abandoned mines or foraging, so I’m very familiar with the area and the various landmarks. I even tried to find Francis Lake once before, ending up in the gully to the NE of it instead. Reaching the area where the map illustrates the position of “Ye olde trail” was no problem, it is more or less at the same area I like to call the “Coney Cut-off”. This area is where Coney creek meets up with the west fork, or a little before it to be precise.
Crossing the creek I found a nice little established camp, and lo and behold, a trail cut through the evil vine maple and bracken that seemed to be going my way! I followed this for a half an hour or better until it became apparent that it went nowhere. I still wonder just who blazed it, and for what purpose. Perhaps another fool trying to get to Francis Lake.
I returned back to the main trail and took a look around, this time deciding to follow the terrain and intuition rather than trying to find the ancient trail. I again crossed the creek, wading through deep, but quite still waters. Upon reaching the other side I started my way up through forest and up the hogback in the approximate position of the trail as illustrated by the map.
At one point I heard a strange buzzing sound, then felt as if my legs were getting warm. Looking down I was shocked to find I was swarmed by little wasps! Shit! I ran, sweeping them off my leg, when I finally felt like they were gone I was surprised to find I only had small welts, with only minor pain. So I carried on.
The route I was taking started to “cliff-out” so I traversed a rather steep slope to try and gain the hillside above the cliffs. It was steep, but thanks to years of cedar branch rock climbing, I was able to best the cliff. I continued to head up through forest and mixed density brush. Soon I began finding semblances of a trail. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
Following the trail was difficult, sometime impossible, but I continued up, eventually running into the outlet stream and paralleling it as best I could, often running into the odd section of trail. After much climbing I encountered a waterfall, I knew I was close. Climbing it, I could tell the lake was getting closer.
It wasn’t long before I was there. I felt pretty damned accomplished, lemme tell ya.
The lake is quite beautiful, tucked into a semi-circle crown of mountain tops. I was also surprised that the lake was much bigger than I expected. Upon emerging from the lake’s outlet I came upon an ancient campsite, the fire pit was overgrown, it was obvious that it hadn’t been used in some time. I dropped my pack off there, and started along the shores, fishing rod in hand.
The lake has a very shallow section, with a slab rock bottom and mud with bleached downed logs and aquatic grasses springing out of the waters. This area is found north of the peninsula shown on the map. Working my way around the peninsula I found the waters grow far deeper to the south of it. Shore access also becomes very restricted the further you go.
It didn’t take long to catch my 5 trout limit, fishing bucktail spinners through the clear mountain water. They were all perfect pan-sized cutthroats, and I was looking forward to my feast that evening when I heard a crack come from the forest near the outlet. I moved to grab my gear and saw a black bear near the shore across from me. “Shit”, I thought. Usually black bear will run from you the moment they see you, but this one didn’t seem to care.
I decided it was in my best interest to find an alternate way back down, rather than close the distance between me and the bear by trying to exit via the lake outlet. I knew the gully to the northeast, as I’d been up it before. I thought I’d see if it could be accessed. Leaving the lake I plowed through chest deep brush in a north easterly direction. It didn’t take long to find the gully, and no, there was no way to get down the massive cliffs and into the rocky stream bed.
I decided to parallel the gully as best I could, hoping perhaps to find a way to descend into it. I still had plenty of daylight, and worst case, I had the gear to spend the night. Most of the way was pretty straightforward, plowing through dense brush, then into semi open forest. There were only a couple precarious cliffs to descend, or to all together avoid. Before I knew it, I was at the base of the gully, and as luck would have it, stumbled upon an old mining camp I’d been searching for some time previous. Score!
My piscean bounty was on my mind again as I made my way to the main trail and back to the old Subaru, and sure enough when I got home I cooked them up and had myself a trout feast.
All in all the trip to Francis Lake was worth it, it was quite an adventure, though I never did find the trail with any certainty. Realistically I probably won’t be back in this lifetime, but who ever really knows.
If you reader decide to embark on a trip up there, feel free to lemme know, I’ll try and help with directions, and hell, if you want, maybe I’ll even tag along. Happy Trails, Harry Biped