Attractions. This hike is a bit of a diamond in the rough. The trailhead is at the Stevens Pass Ski Area, so the true wilderness seeker may be disappointed by the early trailside views of commercial ski slopes. However, hikers who also downhill ski may be fascinated to discover what the runs look like in the off-season. After following the Pacific Crest Trail through the ski area for several miles, the route enters a gorgeous portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and wanders through woods and meadows a short distance before dropping you down to the pristine, emerald waters of Josephine Lake.
Recommended Season. Because this hike wanders through a ski area for much of its length, it’s a bit mundane as a summer hike. In late September and early October when all the shrubbery on the ski runs turns color, however, what was mundane becomes spectacular. To quote the Women With Altitude hiking group who supplied the details for this post, the fall colors to be found here are be “awesome,” “phenomenal,” “superb,” “glorious,” “better than a back rub from my husband,” and “better than my husband.”
Photo: Women En Route to Altitude.
Activity: hiking and trail running.
Nearest Landmark: Stevens Pass.
Skill: 1+ (advanced beginner). Fitness: 2 (intermediate).
Round-trip Distances: 7 miles to Lake Susan Jane, 8 miles to Josephine Lake overlook, 10 miles to the shores of Josephine Lake.
Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet.
Access: Drive Highway 2 to Stevens Pass. Park at the ski area in Lot E (on the south side of the pass and just east of the pedestrian bridge over the highway). There’s a vault toilet in this parking lot.
Maps. See our topo map below for more information.
Note: Use ‘Print Preview’ to orient/scale the map before printing.
Trip Instructions. From the trailhead, walk south along the Pacific Crest Trail. In about 1.75 miles, reach a ridge on the crest of the ski area. Now follow the zig-zagging trail downhill on the back side of the ski area. At one point near a bank of high-voltage powerlines, the trail very briefly merges with a service road before splitting off on its own again. About 3 miles from the start, the trail contours out of the ski area and enters the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. In another 0.5 miles, the trail passes Lake Susan Jane, then continues to an overlook of Josephine Lake. Turn back here, or turn left onto the Icicle Creek Trail and make a big, contouring descent of the lake basin to reach the shores of the lake.
Allowed (or not). Groups in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are limited to 12 people. Dogs must be leashed.
Land Ownership. U.S. Forest Service.
Fees/Permits. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. An Alpine Lakes Wilderness Pass is required on the trail, but can be obtained for free (self-issued) at the trailhead.
Updated Condition Reports. See the bottom of this page found at the WTA.org website.
Reporters. Women with Altitude hiking group, 10/2/12.
Help Out. These trails need frequent maintenance. If you’re interested in joining a trail maintenance group, contact the Washington Trail Association (206-625-1367).
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.
Have these women no shame? The Women with Altitude hiking group hocking our WenatcheeOutdoors / Subaru sign at the Josephine Lake Trailhead.