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Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Wilderness Area - A Short History

When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. - Aldo Leopold

The year was 1924, when 500,000 acres of Gila National Forest was officially designated as Wilderness Area. It is a testament to Aldo Leopold's steadfast devotion. He was a forester, philosopher, conservationist, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. His Sand County Almanac stands as a classic among nature literature.

I believe that at least in the present phase of our civilization we have a profound, a fundamental need for areas of wilderness - a need that is not only recreational and spiritual but also educational and scientific, and withal essential to a true understanding of ourselves, our culture, our own natures, and our place in all nature. - Howard Zahniser, The Need for Wilderness Areas

Four decades later, Howard Zahniser wrote the first draft of the Wilderness Act in 1956. Over the next nine years, it had 65 revisions and 18 public hearings. In August 1964, Wilderness Act of 1964, was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives - with only one dissenting vote! It was signed into law on September 3, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it. - President Lyndon B. Johnson

The Act gave a legal definition of the term wilderness as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

The Act’s purpose is to preserve and protect the natural ecosystems and wild areas and also provide opportunities for solitude and retrospective or primitive recreation. Wilderness areas are federally-owned public lands managed by the federal government through four agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service. Today, the USA has more than 800 wilderness areas encompassing more than 111 million acres. 


an alpine lake

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area

Washington State has 31 Wilderness Areas roughly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined! One of them is the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area - our very own slice of sublime beauty.  The Alpine Lakes Wilderness covers over 400,000 acres of the renowned scenic central Cascades.

This vast expanse is studded with over 700 mountain lakes, which serve as the lifeblood for rivers like the Skykomish, Snoqualmie, Wenatchee, and Yakima. Section J of Pacific Crest National Trail, Cashmere Crags, one of the best rock-climbing sites in the western United States, and the fabled Enchantment are the crown jewels of Alpine Lakes Wilderness. 

Lakes of Alpine Lakes Wilderness

The alpine lakes are more than just bodies of water; they are magical realms, where time slows down and nature’s splendor takes center stage. They remind me of the beauty that exists in simplicity and the power of nature to heal and inspire. They are the silent keepers of secrets, their depths mirroring the soul’s longing for peace and the heart’s eternal quest for wonder. Here is a partial list of some of my favorite lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

alpine lake shimmering in sun

Lakes Accessible from Snoqualmie Pass side

alpine lakes wilderness map

  1. Snow Lake

  2. Talapus Lake

  3. Mason Lake

  4. Gem Lake

  5. Pratt Lake

  6. Kulla Kulla Lake

  7. Thompson Lake

  8. Tuschohatchie Lake

  9. Melakwa Lake

  10. Kaleetan Lake

  11. Wildcat Lakes

  12. Alaska Lake

  13. Rampart Lakes

  14. Rachel Lake

  15. Lila Lake

  16. Lilian Lake

  17. Spectacle Lake

  18. Waptus Lake

  19. Tuck Lake

  20. Robin Lakes

Lakes Accessible from Stevens Pass side

alpine lakes wilderness map

  1. Glacier Lake

  2. Surprise Lake

  3. Josephine Lake

  4. Marmot Lake

  5. Clarice Lake

  6. Trout Lake

  7. Copper Lake

  8. Malachite Lake

  9. Little Heart Lake

  10. Big Heart Lake

  11. Angeline Lake

  12. Jade Lake

  13. Iiswoot Lake

  14. Opal Lake

  15. Locket Lake

Lakes Accessible from Middle Fork

  1. Snoqualmie Lake

  2. Marten Lake

  3. Nordrum Lake

  4. Dorothy Lake

Lakes in Enchantment Area

enchantments map

  1. Snow Lake

  2. Colchuck Lake

  3. Stuart Lake

  4. Isolation Lake

  5. Crystal Lake

  6. Sprite Lake

  7. Inspiration Lake

  8. Viviane Lake

  9. Perfection Lake

  10. Leprechaun Lake

Suggested Reading:

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

The Wilderness Writings of Howard Zahniser

The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

Happy trails!


Experience the magic of Alpine Lake Wilderness by joining our hikes or upcoming overnight hike.

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