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Kid-Friendly Backpack to Ancient Lakes (1 Night)

Discover Pass required

Let's find some summer on the eastern side of the mountains!  Ancient Lakes is excellent for easy adventure. Meet at 7:00 sharp, we plan to leave by 7:15 in order to get good camp sites!

(Excerpt from Karen Sykes, Seattle PI)

If you are a lazy backpacker and don't want to work hard for scenery, interesting geology, flowers and opportunities to fish, then this hike is ideal. This is a good beginner's hike or backpack -- there is no elevation gain and it gets pretty right away.

Enticing paths go everywhere, leading to small lakes, rock formations, even an old mine. The air is sweet with sage and flowers. At dusk small birds dart in and out of the cliffs where they live, and at night the coyotes sing to the stars.

The hiking guidebooks say it's four miles to the lakes, but the miles are short and easy and seem like much less. The trail begins as a four-wheel-drive road and wanders through this oddly beautiful place left over from the geologic upheavals of long ago.  The cliffs of columnar basalt rising above the lakes were once under hundreds of feet of water as the Missoula floods covered much of the state.

Where waterfalls once roared, small rivulets trickle down like lace from the cliffs, and though the Quincy Wildlife Area is surrounded by farms, you feel you are miles from anywhere, perhaps even in another day and age, when ancient beasts roamed the land and men believed the world was flat.

If you don't fish, you can just hang out with a good book, soak up the sun or wander through the area with a flower guide. We found several flowers I had never seen before -- orange globe mallow, yellow paintbrush, squaw currant, narrow-leafed phacelia, several varities of daisies, balsamroot, yarrow and bastard toad-flax, a type of sandalwood -- and the cast of characters changes week by week.

Map Getting there
From Quincy, drive four miles west on state Route 28, turn left on road U Northwest signed "White Trail Road." Drive one mile, turn right on road 9 Northwest and drive 5.9 miles, past a farm to the recreation area and gated road, at 1,000 feet elevation.

Trail detail
This is really easy. Walk the four-wheel-ride road 1/2 mile to the junction, which is not signed but obvious. If we walk straight another three miles, we will reach Dusty Lake. For Ancient Lakes, turn left at the junction and hike 3-1/2 miles through sagebrush and flowers to the lakes. The road rises slightly and we'll see a small marshy lake on our right and Ancient Lakes ahead, side by side.

The grassy area between the lakes is the ideal camping spot. A path goes around the lake on the left and under the cliffs, climbing above a waterfall to another shelf with


Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Moses Lake
USGS Babcock Ridge

What to Bring

10 Essentials

Water or purification source

Overnight backpacking gear/food

Bear bag/canister (required).  Please know how to use it. :)

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  • Mike T.

    GREAT pictures!! Thanks for posting and sharing your adventure with us!! :-)

    May 20, 2013

  • Jennifer B

    Strikingly beautiful. Good group of folks! :)

    May 19, 2013

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