- Rating: Easy
- Activity: Hike
- Distance: 2.7 miles, one-way, to Junction Lake; additional 1.7 miles south to Blue Lake
- Time: 2-6 hours
The 20,600-acre Indian Heaven Wilderness straddles southern Washington’s Cascade Range and harbors no fewer than 175 sparkling lakes. Junction Lake and neighboring Blue Lake pool in the wilderness area’s sweeping subalpine meadows. With a little planning, this hike can extend into an afternoon spent fishing or a night making camp. Many trails are lined with huckleberry bushes, which fruit in August. October brings fall’s brilliant red and golden leaves, a last burst of color before winter. It takes pluck—and a willingness to travel on gravel roads—to reach the trailhead, but then you’re likely to have the wilderness all to yourself.
ROUTE: The first mile of Trail 48 takes you past three modest ponds, but closer to Junction Lake, the meadows grow more expansive. The lake is a fine place to picnic or cast a fly. Continue on to Blue Lake, about 1.7 miles south, and you’ll find 15 campsites. Green Trails Map No. 365S, available at the U.S Outdoor Store, is essential for the trip.
For more hike ideas in the area, check out the Indian Heaven Wilderness trail listing on this map.
DIRECTIONS: Take I-84 east to Cascade Locks (Exit 44), cross the Bridge of the Gods and turn right on Rte 14. Drive for 5.9 miles, turn left through Carson on Rte 30 and drive for 5.8 miles. Following signs to Panther Creek Campground, turn right, then jog left onto what becomes FS Rd 65. Ten miles on, at Four Corners junction, turn right onto gravel FS Rd 60 for 8.6 miles, then follow the East Crater Trail pointer left onto FS Rd 6030 (which eventually becomes FS Rd 6305). The Trail 48 trailhead is on the left, just before a “Road Closed” sign. (NW Forest Pass required, $5)