Lake Valhalla is a gorgeous alpine lake along the Pacific Crest Trail just north of Steven Pass. A perfect, cold lake for swimming, stunning mountain views and a beautiful forest make this hike unforgettable and one of the best in Washington State.
Lake Valhalla has a perfect beach for reading, picnicking or drying off in the sun after a swim on a hot day. In late summer, huckleberries line much of the trail. Fall color here is absolutely stunning in late September and early October, making it one of the best fall hikes near Seattle!
The Lake Valhalla hike from the Smithbrook Trailhead is 7 miles round trip with 1500 feet of elevation gain. If you start at Stevens Pass it’s 12 miles round trip with 900 feet of elevation gain. If you are able to do a one way hike from Stevens Pass to Lake Valhalla and then out at the Smithbrook Trailhead, it would be a 10 mile one way hike with 1000 feet of elevation gain and 1500 feet of elevation lost on the way out.
There are several campsites perfect for backpacking in view of the lake.
The Stevens Pass area and Lake Valhalla are the homelands of the Snohomish, Skykomish and Wenatchi People.
Parking Pass: None
Dog Friendly: yes, on leash
Cell phone coverage: None
Restrooms: There are no toilets of any kind at the trailhead.
Accessibility and Mobility: This trail is a moderate grade and never extremely steep. Most of the trail is a well maintained dirt trail, but there are a few areas or rocks and roots.
Lake Valhalla is located along the Pacific Crest Trail just north of Snoqualmie Pass. There are two different ways to get there.
The first is shorter with a bit more elevation gain, starting from the Smithbrook Trailhead. To get there, head to Stevens Pass on US Highway 2. Just under 4 miles east of the summit you’ll head up Forest Service Road 6700. If you’re coming from the west (Seattle, Everett), you’ll be turning left at a break just after the highway divides and crossing the other lanes onto the road. If you’re coming from the east (Leavenworth, Wenatchee), it’s a right turn just under 4 miles before the summit. You’ll come to the Smithbrook Trailhead in a little less than three miles up the forest service road on the left.
The second option is to start at Stevens Pass. This route is longer with less elevation gain. To start here, park on the north side of the highway in the large ski area lot. It’s across the highway from the lodge and lifts at Stevens Pass Ski Area. Find the Pacific Crest Trailhead and start your hike there.
Is the Lake Valhalla hike right for me?
Lake Valhalla is perfect for those looking for a moderate day hike to an alpine lake and it is especially wonderful for those who love swimming in alpine lakes or seeing beautiful fall colors.
This is also a great place to get a taste of the Pacific Crest Trail and makes for a great one night backpacking trip, especially for beginners. There are several campsites within site of the lake.
When is the best time to hike Lake Valhalla?
In my opinion, this hike is at it’s very best on a sunny fall day in late September or early October. The fall colors at Lake Valhalla and on the way there are absolutely stunning, and there aren’t usually bugs this late in the season!
This hike is generally snow free by mid July and mid July through mid-October are good times to hike to Lake Valhalla.
It’s also a good choice for a hot day because it’s not too steep, much of the route is shady and you can swim in Lake Valhalla to cool off.
Trail Description – from the Smithbrook Trailhead
I prefer this route because the hike is really beautiful and interesting. It is also shorter than starting from Stevens Pass. It has a bit more climbing but it’s not ever too steep and this route just feels like the perfect moderate day hike to me!
Starting at the trailhead sign for the Smithbrook Trailhead, head through the forest on the Smithbrook Trail. You’ll wind up through some switchbacks through the forest for about a mile and a half. A mile and a half from the trailhead, you’ll reach a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail at a place called Union Gap.
Admiring the big towering trees and the huckleberries below, turn LEFT on the Pacific Crest Trail. Once on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’ll continue to go through the forest on a very mellow climb.
In a bit over a mile and a half, views start to open up to Lichtenberg Mountain. You’ll get your first views of the lake here as well as distant mountains. You’ll pass a more rugged trail going up Mt McCausland to your right. This is a worthy side trip if you’d like more of a climbing challenge or you want to avoid the people at the lake if it’s a busy day.
Continuing on the main trail, you’ll begin to descend to Lake Valhalla. Look for a wooden sign that says “Lake Access” and a side trail to the left. Leave the Pacific Crest Trail here to go to the shores of the lake.
When you arrive at the lake, you’ll pass a few campsites and see some big rocks. You can enjoy your lunch here or go down to the very edge of the lake which has a perfect beach. This hike is often crowded on sunny days, but there’s plenty of room to spread out here.
Enjoy a swim, lunch or just taking in the views before heading back the way you came. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Smithbrook Trail at Union Gap and don’t miss that right turn to head back to the trailhead!
Trail Description – from Stevens Pass
Another way to get to Lake Valhalla is to park at Stevens Pass and hike the entire way on the Pacific Crest Trail. This way only has about 1000 feet of elevation gain, but it is much longer. This route is 12 miles round trip to the lake and back.
To take this route, start on the Pacific Crest Trail from the parking lot on the north side of Stevens Pass. It about 6 miles, you’ll come to Lake Valhalla on your right. You’ll head down to the right on the side trail to the shore of the lake.
If you have the option of doing a one way ride by doing a key swap at the lake or getting a ride, you can start at either end. If you start at Stevens Pass, make sure you don’t miss the right turn at Union Gap to make your way out to the Smithbrook Trailhead.
Bakeries and Breweries near Stevens Pass
If you’re looking for a fun stop after your hike, heading back to Seattle or Everett, make sure to stop at the Sultan Bakery. It’s a bakery but also has delicious food! There are several breweries in Monroe worth a stop and the many excellent wineries in Woodinville are on your way home too.
If you’re heading east, you’ll find plenty of beer and food options in Leavenworth. If you want local beer and a sausage (a pretty great post hike meal if you ask me), head to the Munchen Haus!
Electric Vehicle Charging
Heading west, the nearest fast charging for CHAdeMO is in Skykomish (17 miles away). Monroe has fast charging for everyone (50 miles away). Heading east, the nearest fast charging is in Leavenworth (45 miles away).
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and 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 low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.