If you’re itching to get to the other side of the Cascades (i.e. out of the rain), the hike to Lake Ingalls will not disappoint. In fact, this 9-mile round-trip trek is one of the most popular in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. After traveling through three distinct, beautiful alpine ecosystems, the trail takes you to a stunning sky-blue lake set in a basin that is surrounded by in-your-face rocky peaks.
What Makes It Great
This is a great hike to do in the fall, when the leaves turn into an electric orange – a beautiful addition to the blue of the lake and rust of the surrounding rock slabs.Begin hiking on the Esmeralda Basin Trail, at an elevation of 2,400 feet. This follows the North Fork of the Teanaway River for 0.3-miles; notice the lime-colored pools and small waterfalls as you go. You will then encounter a junction: turn right onto the Ingalls Way Trail No. 1390. The route then begins climbing uphill. While the hike includes a 2,500-foot elevation gain, know that this is spread over well-placed switchbacks; no part of the trail feels too brutal. Plus, you’ll have plenty of picturesque wildflowers to look at, like lupines, glacier lilies, and scarlet gilias, to keep your mind otherwise occupied. Two miles from the trailhead, you’ll reach the next junction. Going right will take you to Longs Pass, which adds 1.4 miles to the trip. To continue directly to the lake, stay straight. The trail becomes opens up into a field with better and better views of Esmeralda basin’s grassy meadows and streams, and the surrounding craggy peaks as you go. Side trails lead to campsites and viewpoints. This is where to stay if you’re doing an overnighter. Note: camping is not allowed at the lake. The trail then becomes less distinguishable as it crosses over rocks and boulders to the far side of the basin. Navigation becomes a bit trickier here; follow the cairns. The route then comes around a bend and drops down to the lake. Once at Lake Ingalls, you’ll see Ingalls Peak towering above one side and Mt. Stuart looming in the northeast. There is a path that continues around the lake.
This area is famous for having a lot of mountain goats. And, they are habituated to humans, so there are even accounts of the animals following people around. Close wildlife encounters can be fun, but use good common sense and caution: the males have sharp horns and, especially during breeding season from October to December, they aren’t afraid to use them. Try to stay at least 50 yards away from the goats.
Who is Going to Love It
Those who want to get to the other side of the Cascades and don't mind sharing nature with other hikers - this is a very popular hike!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take SR 970 and turn north onto Teanaway Road. Take this until the pavement ends, and then veer right as the road becomes FR 9737 at 29 Pines Campground. The trailhead is at the end of the road. Park along the road.
Get there early on summer weekends, or you may have trouble finding a spot to park!