Spectacular in the fall, Lake Valhalla is a moderately challenging hiking destination north of Stevens Pass. There are two ways to get to this pretty little lake. The Smithbrook Trailhead route (described here) is shorter but requires driving a forest road. Alternatively, you can begin from Stevens Pass for a longer hike. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a sandy beach, summer swimming, and fall foliage at Lake Valhalla.
Self-register at the Smithbrook Trailhead before setting out (if the registration box is there — it was missing during our most recent visit). Note that wilderness regulations apply on this trail, so drones are not allowed and dogs must be leashed.
The trail begins with a climb through evergreen forest and mountain ash, immediately entering the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. Follow the forest road for 0.2 miles before reaching a series of switchbacks. At 1 mile, reach a talus and boulder-strewn clearing, listening for the “meeps” of pika in the rocks.
At 1.3 miles, reach Union Gap at an intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is signed but Lake Valhalla is not, so be sure to turn left to head south on the PCT. At 2.2 miles, you’ll pop out of the woods for a nice view of Lichtenberg Mountain.
At 2.8 miles, an optional spur trail leads up to Mount McCausland. Continuing straight on the PCT, the trail begins to lose elevation and Lake Valhalla comes into view. At 3.2 miles turn left, pass a backcountry toilet, and descend to the lakeshore. You’ll find a nice lunch rock just above the shore, or head down to a surprisingly sandy beach.
With Lichtenberg Mountain towering 1,000 feet over the lake, Valhalla is an enormously rewarding hike for relatively little effort. Take a swim if the weather is warm, or admire the fall colors and early winter snow. Return the way you came.
Stevens Pass Alternate
Lake Valhalla can also be accessed via the PCT from Stevens Pass. While this approach is longer (about 11 miles roundtrip), it can be more convenient if you’d rather not drive the forest road. Begin from the north Stevens Pass parking lot and hike north on the PCT.
Lake Valhalla can be accessed via snowshoes in the winter. This is not a beginner route — experienced snowshoers should prepare for a 13-mile roundtrip trek with 1,700 feet of elevation gain.