Annette Lake: moderate summer day hike near Seattle
Posted On July 17, 2019
Last Updated on November 29, 2023
In the summer, the Annette Lake hike is a great place to enjoy a picnic, take a swim if you can brave the chilly water and to camp if you want to stay longer. In winter, the parking area becomes the Annette Lake Sno Park. Both summer and winter and described in this article.
Annette Lake in is not an easy hike at 7.5 miles with 1800 feet of elevation gain, but it’s also not super hard. It doesn’t ever get extremely steep, and most of the climbing is shaded and concentrated in a stretch just over a mile.
In winter, the trail to Annette Lake has serious avalanche danger, but this is a great starting point to explore the Iron Horse Trail. More about this is below.
Annette Lake is located on the homeland of the Snoqualmie, Duwamish and Coast Salish people.
Cell phone coverage: Good for the first mile. Limited around the iron horse trail and very spotty after that.
Restrooms: Pit toilet at trailhead (year round)
Accessibility and Mobility: This hike has some steeper sections and some rocks, roots and mud. There is a scree (loose rock) field to cross in summer. In winter, the lower trails are often icy and hard packed. Microspikes and poles and at times snowshoes are helpful.
If you’re game to hike 7.5 miles with a good bit of climbing, and want to see an alpine lake that is relatively close to Seattle (about an hour) and enjoy walking through forests past creeks and wildflowers, then the Annette Lake hike is a great choice!
Keep in mind that Annette Lake is an extremely busy trail on summer weekends. If possible, start late in the day or on a weekday, or save it for fall.
Some sections of the trail have a lot of rocks and tree roots, so it’s important to watch your footing!
In addition to the lake, there are quite a few wildflowers, especially in the more open sections, and lots of water as it crosses the creek a few times. Sound like fun? Read on! Looking for something easier and shorter? Try Cedar Butte. Looking for something harder or with bigger views? Try Bandera Mountain.
This trail is extremely busy on summer weekends. If you want to find a less crowded lake hike, drive a little further to Lodge Lake or Mirror Lake!
When is a good time for the Annette Lake hike?
If you want the hike to be snow free, late June through whenever the first big snow is in the fall (late October to early November) is generally a good time. Like most hikes close to Seattle along the I-90 corridor, it gets busy on weekends.
Annette Lake is now a Washington State Sno Park, though the trail to the lake has serious avalanche danger so I recommend exploring the Iron Horse trail in winter instead (see below).
Where is Annette Lake?
Annette Lake is near Snoqualmie Pass just west of the summit area. Without traffic, it will take about an hour from Seattle. To get there, take I-90 east from Seattle to Exit 47 (signed Asahel Curtis). Go right over a bridge and at the T intersection, turn left. This will take you straight to the trailhead in less than a mile. There are several epic potholes along the road so take it slow enough you can see and steer around them.
You need a northwest forest pass or federal interagency pass to park here (not a discover pass). There is an outhouse at the trailhead.
Starting from the parking lot, follow the Annette Lake trail (right of the sign board). This is also the trailhead for the Asahel Curtis nature trail, which is an excellent short loop to see some old growth trees and a pretty waterfall if you have extra energy when you return!
The trail goes through the forest and in about a quarter of a mile you will come to a sturdy bridge over a beautiful falls on humpback creek
Soon after, you will come to an open space passing under powerlines, an area with some gorgeous wildflowers including foxglove and fireweed in summer.
In a bit over a mile from your starting point, you’ll cross the Cascades to Palouse Trail and the trail continues on the other side (there’s a brown sign slightly to your right). From here you start the steepest part of the climb through the forest for the next mile and a half or so. There are 10 switchbacks in this section for those switchback counters out there!
At the end of this section, you’ll cross a more open and rocky slope (look for flowers and views here) and then the trail enters forest again and flattens out for the last section to the lake. Enjoy the lake until you’re ready to return and head back the way you came!
If you’d like to stay longer, this is a good backpacking destination with a few sites around the lake.
Annette Lake Sno Park
The Annette Lake Trailhead became a Washington Sno Park in December 2022. This is a welcome new addition for snowshoeing options near Snoqualmie Pass!
As I’ve mentioned, the trail above the Iron Horse Trail on the way to Annette Lake crosses a dangerous avalanche chute, so I don’t recommend crossing it in winter (if you decide to take on this risk make sure you are knowledgeable about avalanche safety and make sure to check the avalanche forecast).
The sno park is an excellent base for exploring the Iron Horse Trail, which is about a mile from the trailhead and you’ll climb about 500 feet to get there.
Follow the Annette Lake Trail until it crosses the Iron Horse and then you can go either left or right for more exploring. There are some great views about a quarter to a half a mile to the west (right) on the Iron Horse.
You can also explore the short Asahel Curtis Nature Trail, a one mile loop through old growth forest with about 200 feet of elevation gain.
The Asahel Curtis Nature trail and the lower part of the Annette Lake trail do not always have snow all winter so there could be bare spots. At other times you may need snowshoes to go very far. When the snow is icy or packed down, microspikes might be more helpful.
During winter (November through April), you’ll need a Sno Park pass to park here.
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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