Hike Blanca Lake | North Cascades National Park
Long hikes are one of my favorite things. I love the adrenaline rush that you get leading up to your departure. My pre-departure ritual includes making a list and checking it twice, sort of like Santa. Before my hike to Blanca Lake, I needed to buy a bunch of equipment. It was my first hike of the season, I know I am late to the game, and I didn’t have a water bottle or a life jacket for my dog…He can’t swim. I woke early and headed down the street to REI. I am very fortunate to live next to the Flagship store. I was in and out pretty quickly, picking up only the doggy life jacket and a CamelBak, and I was proud of myself for exerting self-control in a store I could spend all day meandering around.
Let me advise, do not try to complete this hike in sandals. An hour into the two hour drive to the trailhead, I realized that I had neglected to change my shoes before leaving the house. Birkenstocks, the Adventure Sandal. I came up with this new slogan while I was successfully climbing 4600 ft in elevation over 3.5 miles while wearing them. The descent was actually the hardest part, believe it or not.
Every half hour on the way up, we would pass a group heading down the mountain. We would casually ask, “are we halfway there yet?” The answer was consistent, “eh, maybe close to halfway.” This was a very frustrating response. Lucky for us, we could blame our NUMEROUS stops on the dogs needing food or water, otherwise we would have looked super wimpy.
This trail is tough, let me tell you. When I was researching the hike, people said that it was the hardest thing they have ever done. I don’t believe it was the HARDEST thing I have ever done, but it was up there, mostly because of my shoe choice. The switchbacks start about 5 minutes in and don’t stop…ever. It’s a pretty popular place so expect to see many other hikers. If you are the solo backpacking type that wants to get off the beaten path and away from tourists, this is not the trail for you.The whole journey to and from took about 6 hours and covered 7 miles of the Cascade Mountain Range.
I had read that people gasp when they first see Blanca Lake through the trees and I can believe it, though I was to out of breath to gasp. To put this into context, I feel like I am in pretty good shape. Don’t let that discourage you though, because it was most definitely worth the trip. The turquoise blue water, the melting glacier, and the surrounding mountains will take your breath away. And if the views don’t, try jumping into the icy waters because that definitely will. I had initially planned to jump in, but once I got there and dipped my toes into the crystal blue waters, there was just no way. I don’t know exactly how cold the water was but I would guess about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe if it hadn’t been 5PM by the time we arrived I would have gone through with it, but floating was satisfying enough for me and Ollie (my dog).