Washington Trails Association, our favorite resource for finding great hikes, ranks hiking trails according to their level of difficulty. So there are easy hikes, intermediate hikes, hard hikes, and those ranked as “expert”. Coming from the flat plains of the Midwest, I’ve been wary of the “expert” hikes. But we decided to take the plunge and chose the day our Subaru broke the 50,000 mile mark to take our first “expert” hike at Lake Ingalls.
We got our Subaru just days before we packed it full of our belongings and our two cats and moved West. The Subie (as we refer to it) has taken us on many a Pacwest journey.
And so we were excited to reach this 50,000 mile milestone while en route to a new adventure. (It could have turned over on the way to work, which would not have been nearly as momentous).
The drive to the Lake Ingalls trailhead is an adventure in itself. Teanaway Road off Washington 10/970 is an idyllic country road lined with beautiful horse and cow ranches.
The recent rain and wind storms took away many of the colorful fall leaves, but there were still plenty of lovely fall colors to see. Eventually you turn on to a fire safety road which becomes unpaved a few miles before the trailhead. This road is filled with potholes, which made the drive challenging. It was on this bumpy route that the Subie turned over the 50,000 mile mark. How fitting!
There were just a few cars in the parking area when we arrived at 10:30 a.m. The parking area itself is spectacular, as you park at the base of Esmeralda Peaks along the roaring Teanaway River.
The first part of the hike climbs quickly through a forested path along the river. We knew the hike would be steep with a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet, and the beginning proved this to be true.
From the forest path, the trail continues through a variety of eco-systems…a grassy hillside,
a rocky lunar-landing type terrain,
a very thin, somewhat eroding ridge trail crossing creeks,
and then a snow-lined pass between mountain ridges.
It was spectacular to witness so many different terrains in one trail.
As we ascended the trail towards the pass, we were surprised to reach a height high enough to see Mount Rainier looming over the Esmeralda Peaks and to see Mount St. Helens to the south. We felt (almost) as though we were on top of the world.
It took us two hours to reach Ingalls Pass. Once at the top at about 6,500 feet, we decided to rest our weary legs (which had just climbed 2,500 feet! Hence the “expert” ranking!).
We found a large rock to serve as our picnic site where we enjoyed the midday sun and the amazing views of Mount Stuart and Ingalls Peak.
The meager trail leading from the pass along the top of the basin above the lake was too snowy and we forgot to pack our crampons, so we decided to turn back after lunch. Although the trail is inhabited by Mountain goats, despite all our wishing and hoping, we did not see any. It turns out the goats hang out in the basin. We will have to revisit this area in warmer weather to see the goats.
On our way back, we passed several serious campers toting packs full of gear…they will surely have encountered the goats during their camp stay. For us, this journey to the pass was enough. We bucket listed the “expert” hike and saw some spectacular views. After the hour-and-a-half thigh-burning descent, we decided to head to nearby Roslyn for a well-earned beer at The Brick. Lake Ingalls lived up to its reputation as one of the best hikes in this area and we will visit this trail again.
Important Travel Notes:
Directions To Lake Ingalls Trailhead: From I-90 take the exit for SR970. Turn north onto Teanaway Road. Continue on this road until the pavement ends. Veer right as the road becomes FR 9737 at 29 Pines Campground. The Trailhead (and parking area) will be at the end of this road.
Required Credentials: Northwest Forest Pass