One of my favourites. There is a huge amount of new snow.
Roundtrip 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain 1350 ft
Highest Point 2400 ft
Perched in a spectacular basin at the base of Mount Pilchuck's sheer northern face, sparkling Lake Twentytwo is a stunning sight. But there's more to this popular hike than the picturesque lake and its backdrop of waterfalls and avalanche chutes. For much of the way the well-constructed trail follows cascading Twentytwo Creek through an exemplary ancient forest of gargantuan cedars. An excellent hike to acquaint children and neophytes with the natural world-just don't expect to be alone on this favorite of many a Puget Sound hiker.
As delightful a destination as Lake Twentytwo may be, the real treat on this hike is the forest. Nearly 800 acres of pristine forest surrounding the lake and its outlet were set aside in 1947 as a Research Natural Area (RNA) to study the effects on water, wildlife, and timber of an area left in its virgin state compared to a similar area that has been intensively managed. Upon initial observation entering this primeval patch it doesn't take a forester, scientist, or naturalist to tell you that nature does a pretty darn good job of taking care of things when people aren't messing with it!
The surroundings are lush. Water appears to seep and bubble from the ground everywhere. Moss carpets boulders and rotting logs. Maidenhair, deer, and lady ferns form showy bouquets beneath the behemoth trees. Although western hemlock and silver fir are the predominant species, it's the western red cedars that will garner most of your attention. Colonnades of the giants, some with trunks measuring almost 12 feet in diameter, hold up the sky.
The trail starts by gently traversing a side hill paralleling the road and the South Fork Stilly. In 0.5 mile cross Twentytwo Creek on a little bridge and pause to admire cascades both up- and downstream. The trail then begins to climb, but never too harshly. Volunteers and Forest Service employees have worked hard over the years to crib much of this well-trampled trail, ensuring tread that will stand the impact of thou-sands of boots.
At 2 miles enter a talus slope punctuated with vine and big-leaf maples. Exceptionally pretty in the fall, the views of Green Mountain and the South Fork Stilly valley can still be enjoyed anytime. Upon reentering the cool cloak of ancient conifers, the climbing commences and you can glimpse a thundering waterfall through the thick timber.
Next, enjoy 0.25 mile of level walking following along Twentytwo Creek as you enter the cirque housing Lake Twentytwo. Break out of the trees and behold the lake set beneath an impressive vertical wall of rock. Waterfalls crash off of the sheer cliffs. In early season, so do avalanches-stay well away. By midsummer it's safe to circumnavigate the lake on a delightful 1.2-mile trail.
The lake, which is over 50 feet deep, supports a fair amount of fish. But the only thing you may be intent on catching here is the sun's rays shimmering off of the twinkling waters and a whole lot of gorgeous scenery.
From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 11 miles to the Verlot Public Service Center. Proceed 2 more miles to the trailhead, on your right (elev. 1050 ft). Privy available.Don't expect to find much heather growing along the shores of this pretty little subalpine lake. That ubiquitous mountain shrub is pretty hard to find on this hike. But what you can expect to see along the way are some mighty fine old cedars. Expect, too, to be serenaded by babbling brooks, wooed by fine views of Mount Pilchuck's craggy, rocky north face, and charmed by Heather's placid waters. Don't plan on being alone here, however; this easy trail is one of the premier stomping grounds off of the Mountain Loop Highway. On a sunny summer weekend, you'll likely encounter the entire spectrum of the hiking world, from old-timers to neophytes and everyone in between.