Trail Name: Melakwa Lake
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Perhaps if more hikers knew that "melakwa" is Chinook jargon for "mosquito," they’d shy away from this alpine lake near Snoqualmie Pass. But then again, maybe not; Melakwa Lake sits in a breathtakingly rugged little basin beneath jagged rocky peaks. And while mosquitoes do occasionally buzz around here on warm summer days, the only swarms here are of fellow hikers. So get an early start, and hope that crowds will thin as hikers stop and lounge as the trail passes a series of waterfalls.
Follow the Denny Creek Trail beneath the elevated I-90 before trudging 2,300 feet up a tight valley alongside cascading Denny Creek; you’ll cross and re-cross it several times. The creek’s constant churning drowns out the drone of freeway traffic as you amble through thick forest and open avalanche chutes. After passing Slide Rock, an area popular for sunning and foot-soaking, come to Keekwulee Falls. The name is Chinook for "fall down," which creek certainly does, here tumbling 125 feet.
Continue on a steeper grade coming to yet another fine cataract tucked into a tight gorge, 150-foot Snowshoe Falls. Then climb out of the valley to 4,600-foot Hemlock Pass before dropping 100 feet to the sparkling Melakwa Lake tucked between two towering rocky peaks. Clumps of hardy old-growth mountain hemlocks and slopes of talus flank the shoreline, and In early morning and late evening there are reflections of Chair and Kaleetan peaks above. If there are any mosquitoes buzzing around, you’ll be too distracted by the alpine splendor to notice.
Watch For: A scramble path leads intrepid souls to Upper Melakwa Lake, tucked in a tight rocky fold.
Getting there: Take exit 47 on I-90 to Denny Creek Road (Forest Service Road 58) and follow for 2.5 miles to the trailhead just beyond Denny Creek Campground.
Time from Seattle: 1 hour
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Day Hiking Central Cascades and Backpacking Washington.