The PNW weather is showing an improvement. Mornings are crisp and overcast, but then it begins to clear up, sun comes out and all is well in the world again. Now, this is the kind of September that I remember from years past!
Last Friday, Lena, Delilah and I chose an easy, one with very little elevation gain, and a rather short hike. Lena just completed a crazy 50K trail run on Mt. St. Helens, so she wanted to take it easy for a change.
This shortish hike, being just a little over 5 miles, would normally not appeal to me. Although we’ve very fortunate to be so close to the wilderness, living in Seattle, it’s still a bit of a drive to get to this wilderness. With the morning traffic, it took me well over two hours to get to Mountain Loop Highway. So, when you spend this much time in the car, you usually want the hike to be “worth it”, meaning at least 7 miles, but preferably 10.
But I am so glad we went there! Ashland Lakes hike is amazingly beautiful and now one of my favorites.
I’d say that the hardest part of it is getting to the trailhead. From Mountain Loop Highway (take a right about 4.6 miles down from the Verlot ranger station) we got on a gravel forest road, which is well marked and hopefully won’t confuse too many people. It forks off a few times, because there are other hikes in the area, but look for signs for Ashland Lakes. You’ll need to stay on the forest road (AWD is a must. Tons of potholes, some full of water, so be prepared to go through a few little ponds) for about 10 miles. Here you will have to take it slow. The trailhead is at about 2500 ft.
Once you get to a parking lot with a toilet tucked in on the side, you’ve come to the right place. The forest road keeps on going, but don’t make a mistake (like we did) to follow it further. Pretty soon it becomes evident that no one really drives on this road anymore. Luckily we turned around before we got stuck. The trailhead is just in front of the vault toilet and it does have a sign.
The trail is breathtakingly beautiful right from the very start. Most of it weaves through marshes and wetlands, so there’s a boardwalk most of the way through. It’s easy to stay on the trail here, but be warned that the boards are often slippery, so be careful!
This is not a very long trail, so we took one little detour to Beaver Plant Lake. This is a very small lake, more like a pond, really. The trail here continues to Bold Mountain Ridge. There’s very little information on this trail, which makes me intrigued… Looking at the map, it looks like one could follow the ridge to Bold Mountain and then get down to Cutthroat lakes on the other side. No idea how long this hike would be and if it may have to be an overnight backpacking trip, but it’s one that I’m not interested in exploring! The area is just so beautiful here…
Continuing through the lush forest we passed a few of the hobbit homes before finally reaching the first of the Ashland Lakes.
This is the Lower Ashland Lake.
A little further down the boardwalk is the Upper Ashland Lake.
There are campsites around both of the lakes. Mosquitos might be a nuisance here during the warmer months though… This much standing water (not just the lakes, but the area in general is pretty swampy) seems like the perfect breeding ground for those bloodsuckers.
Lena and I had a little lunch break at one of the campsites. It was a lovely spot and the sun felt really good…
We saw lots of dragonflies and tiny little frogs!
Delilah took a quick dip in the water before we headed back.
A fairly easy, completely unpopulated (on Friday ours was the only car in the parking lot and we saw no one!), beautiful hike I’d recommend to anyone with an AWD vehicle!
5.7 hiking miles, 1,027 ft of elevation.
YTD Hiking Miles: 92.0