Day Hike to Lila Lakes and Alta Pass

12 miles 3000 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Nathan Wall

Forested valley. Tiny tarns and large alpine lakes. Meadows and mountain scenery. Endless cross-country explorations. 12 miles roundtrip with 3000' elevation gain.

Getting There

From Seattle, drive Interstate 90 to Exit 62, Signed Kachess Lake/Stampede Pass. Turn left and head north over the interstate; you'll reach Kachess Lake Campground in five miles. Turn left where the pavements ends and drive four miles on Box Canyon Road (FS Road #4930) to the Rachel Lake Trailhead. Pack your bags, get on the trail, and begin your trek into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness high country.

The Trail

The trail begins with a brief meandering ascent and shortly begins to parallel Box Canyon Creek. With the soothing babble of the creek always within earshot, you'll gently traverse through shaded mossy forests and open slide-alder covered avalanche slopes. Soon you'll gain astounding views to your right of Hibox Mountain as you make your way to the end of the Box Canyon Creek Valley.

At 2.5, miles the trail begins a moderately steep ascent, gaining 1300 feet of elevation before finally relenting at the gorgeous turquoise waters of Rachel Lake. While catching your breath, enjoy a snack or snap a few photographs before turning right to regain the main trail. Hike further switchbacks up through talus, meadows, and ever expanding views to the south for another half mile. The way levels as you reach a trail junction on Rampart Ridge signed for Rampart Ridge Lakes and Lila Lakes. Turn right and make your way towards Lila Lakes, traversing steadily through meadows, crags, and forested slopes.

After a placid mile of ever-increasing views and mountain vistas, you'll descend slightly into the Lila Lakes Basin. The trail leads straight to a promontory that offers the iconic and well-documented view of the lower lakes with Hibox Mountain seated nobly beyond.

For lesser known explorations, turn left and ascend a cat trail adjacent to a small outlet stream into the upper cirque. Here, you'll find innumerable tarns and larger lakes that are often over-looked by most trekkers. Explore the basin slowly, snapping photographs, and finally reaching Alta Pass where views expand East and Northward towards Alaska Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, and Chikamin Peak with the Gold Creek Valley sprawled out far below. Working clockwise you can now descend from Alta Pass through talus and forested slopes to the lower Lila Lakes basin rejoining the crowds before making your way back down the trail. Consider combining this adventure with a climb of Alta Mountain or with a trek to Rampart Ridge Lakes on the Southeastern flank of the ridge.

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Swimming Hole


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Great day hike

Went up last Monday with a friend, left the trailhead at around 8:30am. Snow is still melting out so you're pretty much hiking through a creek for a good portion of the trek up to Rachel Lake. Trail was hard to follow at times because there was still snow up on Rampart Ridge and it didn't seem like a ton of people had attempted to go to Lila Lake recently. Because of our getting lost and backtracking, we didn't make it to Lila until around noon. Hike down was much easier and we passed a bunch of people coming up.

Perfect for Beginning Adventurist

July 2016 Overview: 5 of us (1 expert, 3 intermediate and 2 beginners) used this day hike up to Lila Lake as a "backpacking" trip, spending two nights at the lake. With 35 pound backpacking packs this 5.5 mile/+2,500 ft. elevation/4.5 hour hike wasn't easy, but we all made, and all felt it was well worth the sore legs. Weather: We were lucky enough to have an overcast day on the way up. If it was warm and sunny, the hike could of been twice as hard — sore legs + sweat. Once we were at Lila Lake, the clouds opened up and the weather was perfect. Things to Do: There was so much to do here! -Swimming in the main lake. -Romping around in the tens of watering holes around the main lake. -Exploring the creek which has an amazing view of the valley and Rachel Lake, below. -Meeting other camping neighbors. -Exploring other trails and lakes (Rampart Lake). Things Not to Forget: -Bug spray & bug resistant clothing. Seriously, bring an arsenal and not that organic stuff. -Trekking poles. They were a life saver. -Water filtration system. You don't want to lug water up this hike. Final Thoughts: This is the perfect place to get your feet wet with backpacking, minimalist camping and trail life.


🥇Top Contributor

about 4 years ago

Crowded for backpacking

Did an overnight backpacking trip here on a Saturday night in the summer so needless to say it's not your typical tranquil experience being so close to Seattle. Felt like camping in a car campground once up to Lila Lake. One group had a blow up couch, and two other groups had fires despite them not being permitted in Alpine Lakes Wilderness at the moment, another group used a hefty bag as a bear bag and hung it next to someone else's campsite. If it weren't for these things it would be such a great destination and is absolutely beautiful. Probably better to be saved for the off season!

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