All photos by Roger Gervin. Photo above: Dusty Lake and its coulee.
Roger Gervin, one of the most active hikers and snowshoers we know, completed this loop hike at Ancient Lakes in mid-March – which is often a great time to hike the area. Ancient Lakes is an excellent early season and late season place to walk and mountain bike. Located near Quincy, it’s far enough east to be significantly sunnier and drier than the Wenatchee Valley environs. The soil is also quite rocky and sandy — so when the loams around Wenatchee and Leavenworth are slimy and muddy, the soils out here are well drained.
We have a variety of Ancient Lake hikes and mountain bike rides in the WenatcheeOutdoors guidebooks but Roger’s loop is a variation we hadn’t seen yet. He writes, “We made a loop hike by first going to Dusty Lake… where we were able to find an opening in the basalt cliffs above the lake that allowed us to cross over into the Ancient Lake Coulee… where we made short visits to Ancient Lake and a couple of potholes before returning to the car. No snowshoes, no Micro-Spikes and no ice ax… just light packs, sunscreen, lip balm and Cheetos!”
Sounds pretty appealing, but do be aware that the linkage between these two coulees is not a big, wide trail. There are not many viable ways for non-climbers to ascend the steep cliffs rimming Dusty Lake so pay close attention to the route noted on Roger’s map. The linkage between the coulees entails scrambling up some steep talus slopes and following some narrow rough trails.
All photos above: The cool scenery (actually the coulee scenery) around Ancient and Dusty lakes.
Details, Details: Ancient Lake – Dusty Lake Loop
Activities. Hiking, trail running, fishing.
Skill: 2 to 3 (Intermediate to advanced). This route requires some route finding, scrambling, and boulder hopping.
Fitness: 2 to 2+(intermediate).
Distance: About 7 miles roundtrip. Elevation: About 600 feet of gain.
Activities: Hiking, fishing.
Nearest Towns: Quincy.
Recommended Season: Best in spring and fall after wetting rains. The trails and roads here get very sandy and dusty in summer. It’s also very hot in summer. The area is one of the region’s earliest fun zones to visit in early season and one of the best late-season places to visit.
Access. From the west, drive Highway 28 about 2.5 miles past the Crescent Bar turnoff to milepost 25. At rest area on top of the Trinidad Grade (several miles west of Quincy), turn right on 10 NW, immediately curve right and go around the back of rest area. In 0.4 miles, turn left on V street. After 0.9 miles, go right on 9th and just stay on it (after 0.5 miles it goes down a hill toward river, then it veers right). After 1.1 miles the road turns into a good gravel road, and after 4.6 miles it ends at a small parking lot with a sani-can and a gate across the road. There are no other facilities here. The hike starts just past the gate. A permit (Discover Pass) is needed to park here.
Trip Instructions. There’s no signage on these trails so pay close attention to the map and the terrain.
- From the car, pass the gate closing the road to motorized vehicles. Walk south on the main road which follows the Babcock Bench. After about 0.5 mile you’ll start intersecting a few roads and trails on your left that head up the Ancient Lake Coulee. You will return on one of these, but continue straight for now.
- About 1.5 miles from the car, turn left on a prominent dirt road heading up the second coulee encountered since leaving the car. Dusty Lake is 1.4 miles up this coulee. Note: This lake is stocked with rainbow trout and is a popular fly-fishing destination at the start of fishing season.
- Follow along the north end of the lake as noted by the map and then work up through the cliffs between the lake and the mesa above as shown in the picture below.
- Head north across the mesa and then use the map to find the appropriate place to descend a rough trail dropping down to the south end of Ancient Lake.
- Explore the Ancient Lakes area as time and curiosity allows – it’s a pretty area with a variety of attractions that will catch your eye.
- When you’ve finished wandering around the lakes, follow one of the roads heading west out of the coulee and return to the Babcock Bench where your hike started (there are a few different roads heading out).
- Upon intersecting the road on the Babcock Bench, turn right and return to the car.
Above: The route from the north end of Dusty leading to the mesa above Dusty and Ancient lakes.
More Photos. For many more pictures of this route, see Roger’s website (the website is a gold mine of information about other hiking and snowshoeing routes).
Ownership. The area is managed by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. A number of areas in the WenatcheeOutdoors guidebooks (e.g., Ancient Lakes, Swakane Canyon, Colockum and Chelan Butte) are on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands. Hunting and fishing licenses help support these properties and other recreationalists are likely to find these lands being hunted throughout the fall. On some of these properties you’ll encounter upland bird hunters into January.
Fishing. Dusty Lake has become a popular fishing destination and has earned a reputation for large trout. Nearly half of the fish caught here 15-20 inch carryovers. At one time brown trout were the predominant fishery but in 1999 the lake was rehabilitated to offer rainbow trout. Now rainbow are predominantly caught here but brown trout are sometimes still taken as well. Fly fishermen are particularly fond of fishing here but spinning gear and fishing with bait are fine as well. The lake is deep, and rimmed by cliffs so it doesn’t receive as much sun and is slower to warm up. May, October, and November are the best months to fish it. You must walk in (part of the reason the fishing is good) and float tubes are a good way to access areas that are difficult to reach from shore. Ancient Lake, meanwhile is a mixed fishery where you can catch sunfish, largemouth bass, bream, bluegill, rainbow trout, perch and crappie. Whether you’re spinning, fly fishing or baitcasting the chances of catching fish is reasonable because you need to hike in to fish it.
Fees/Permits. Parking at the trailhead requires a Discover Pass which can be purchased at a State Park or anywhere fishing licenses are sold.
Equipment. Normal hiking equipment. Sturdy boots. For the rougher ground linking the two coulees together, you might appreciate hiking/trekking poles
Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route.You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.