Explore the Exposed Shoreline of Lake Keechelus

Explore the shore of Lake Keechelus. This pictures is taken at the mouth of Roaring Creek where it is carving a new channel through the exposed lake shore.

Explore the shore of Lake Keechelus. This pictures is taken at the mouth of Roaring Creek where it is carving a new channel through the exposed lake shore.

If you have ever driven across Snoqualmie Pass, you have seen Lake Keechelus, lake that I-90 skirts as it heads down the east side of the crest. The level of this lake varies dramatically over the course of the year as water held behind the dam is released to support irrigation in the Yakima Basin, eventually draining the lake to its pre-dam extent.  What you may not realize is that it is quite easy to get down to the exposed shoreline and, although you can cars rushing by on I-90 from the shore, it is a peaceful place to explore as few people make it there.  You can clamber along the cliffs, climb to the top of the hills that are islands for most of the year, rest on the lake shore, fish or even go for a swim or kayak/boat (either bring an inflatable or launch from the USFS Boat launch). The views from the lake are spectacular with the high peaks of the Cascade Range in the background, and the creeks carve interesting channels through the exposed lake bed. I have hiked down to the lake shore regularly over the past five years, and it is always fun to explore when the water level  recedes, but this year the water level is particularly low, making the landscape even more interesting. The creeks running into the lake are carving new canyons through the exposed sand and it is possible to walk the entire shoreline – although there are a couple of points where you have to scramble along cliffs.

There is only one access point directly on the lake, the USFS boat launch at the north end. However, you can also access the lake from the Palouse to Cascade Trail (hike, horse or mountain/gravel bike), or you can park at the end of an old FS road off of Lost Lake Road approximately one mile about the dam and follow the road to the trail and lake shore.  Unless you park at the USFS Boat launch, you will need to drop down from the old railroad grade of the Palouse to Cascade trail. This drop is too steep to descend in most areas, but there are a number of places along the trail where the lake bed is accessible, even for a not very nimble person like me. My favorite areas to descent to the lake shore are a spot just north of the State Parks Roaring Creek Campground, one north of the Roaring Creek Bridge (there is a steep descent just past the bridge, but if you walk a few minutes farther north you will find a ramp gently descending to the lake shore.) I have also seen people getting to the lake shore near the Cold Creek Campground and from Meadow Creek at the south end of the lake.

You can explore the lake in an easy day trip from Seattle – it takes less than an hour to get to any of the access points, or make it an overnight trip and stay at one of the two State Park campgrounds along the trail.

You will need a Discover Pass is at the Hyak Trailhead and a Northwest Forest Pass or Federal Access Pass if you want to park at the boat launch but no pass is required at the other access points.

You can find the trails and trailheads that provide access to Lake Keechelus on several of our maps, including  here  on the camping map.

You can find the trails and trailheads that provide access to Lake Keechelus on several of our maps, including here on the camping map.

This time of year, the lake shore north of the Roaring Creek Campground to the Roaring Creek bridge has a wide plain dotted with interesting stumps that you must cross to get to the water. The easiest spot to drop to the lake shore is just north of the campground where the trail comes out on the lake shore, after briefly being behind a small hill. You can also drop down to the lake right near the Roaring Creek bridge, although that is a steeper climb and you have to navigate over piles of driftwood.

This time of year, the lake shore north of the Roaring Creek Campground to the Roaring Creek bridge has a wide plain dotted with interesting stumps that you must cross to get to the water. The easiest spot to drop to the lake shore is just north of the campground where the trail comes out on the lake shore, after briefly being behind a small hill. You can also drop down to the lake right near the Roaring Creek bridge, although that is a steeper climb and you have to navigate over piles of driftwood.

The old stumps on the lake shore are twisted into interesting shapes.

The old stumps on the lake shore are twisted into interesting shapes.

Labor Day Weekend, I went down to the lake shore with my daughter who took the other pictures for this post.

Labor Day Weekend, I went down to the lake shore with my daughter who took the other pictures for this post.

Jennifer Hackett