Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
With easy access, spectacular scenery, and a fairly safe route, Lanham Lake is a popular snowshoe destination. The route is pretty straightforward and not too long—but you do climb more than 1,000 vertical feet, so expect a good workout. The small lake is cradled in a quiet valley surrounded by big trees and steep slopes. You’ll feel like you’re a lot farther and deeper in the wilderness than you are.
Starting from the base of the Stevens Pass Nordic Ski Center, enter thick forest and commence climbing beside Lanham Creek. During a heavy snowpack, you'll be hard-pressed to see any trace of the creek. Emerge from beneath the dense forest canopy to cross ski trails* and a set of high power lines. Then re-enter the woods, transitioning from a uniform stand of young trees to impressive old growth.
The climb is pretty steady, but you will get some short reprieves. The valley grows tighter as you approach the lake. Be sure to veer well away from avalanche slopes to your east while cresting the lake basin. Then wander around the frozen basin, staring at the impressive 6,765-foot Jim Hill Mountain.
The mountain was named for James J. Hill, known as “the empire builder.” It was Hill who was responsible for constructing the Great Northern Railroad, which helped open up the Pacific Northwest to settlement. One of Mr. Hill’s most notable quotes was, “Give me snuff, whiskey and Swedes, and I will build a railroad to hell.” The devil never got his rail line, but the tracks did reach Seattle.
Watch For: Avalanches on Big Jim’s north face
Getting there: Take State Route 522 to Monroe and head east on US 2 to Stevens Pass. Continue east for another 5.8 miles, turning right into the Stevens Pass Nordic Center on Upper Mill Creek Road. Trail begins from lower parking area.
*Note: Do not snowshoe on Nordic Center ski trails.
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Winter Hikes of Western Washington.