Mount Stuart on Lake Ingalls Hike near Leavenworth, Washington

As October arrives, days begin to shorten, and temperatures start to drop. Winter may be fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean we’re out of time to enjoy the great outdoors for the rest of the year. This month, we’re going to highlight several popular hiking destinations which are best enjoyed during the autumn season. First on our list is among the most well-traveled fall hikes in Washington State, the stunning Lake Ingalls trail. During this time of year only, the trail weaves through an elevated meadow of vibrant yellow larches. There is camping available in this meadow; if you have the gear and extra time, an overnight trip would make for an unforgettable experience.


Ingalls is a crystalline-blue glacial lake that sits in a high basin surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Enchantment mountains. It frames striking views of Mt. Stuart which reflect off the glassy surface of the water. It is the perfect place for landscape photography, with the imposing cliffs of Stuart reaching high into the heavens above the lake. The body of water and trail are both part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, meaning you’ll be traveling through protected lands during your ascent.


Getting to the trailhead can be a bit tricky and requires driving some miles offroad over less-than-deal road conditions. Make sure that your vehicle is equipped to tackle these sorts of conditions before heading out. Take Interstate 82 west out of the Tri-Cities toward Yakima. Continue northbound on I-82 until it merges with I-90 at Ellensburg, then head west again. Shortly after merging onto I-90, follow exit signs for Highway 97, which leads north out of the city. After a few miles, you’ll come to a T in the road. Take a left onto Highway 970, then your first right, which will lead you the rest of the way to the trailhead.

Planning Ahead

As with most popular hiking destinations throughout the Pacific Northwest, you’ll want to arrive early at the trailhead to ensure the availability of a parking space. Make sure to pack all essential items with you before heading out, as the Lake Ingalls trailhead is rather remote, and you’ll have a difficult time replacing anything forgotten or left behind. The trail itself is approximately nine miles out-and-back (~4.5 miles each direction), with just under 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It has been rated “hard” by the community-based hiking network AllTrails and can pose a significant challenge for new hikers. We would suggest packing at least one liter of water per person, though you may wish to take more just to be sure you’ll stay hydrated. Dress with layers, as temperatures fluctuate this time of year, and the trail is somewhat exposed to the elements at points. The last 400 feet of elevation gain is a bit of a scramble up boulders and other larger rocks, so sturdy/grippy footwear is a necessity.

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