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Who’s up for a swim? Oh...maybe not.

Image: Craig Romano

Kelcema Lake

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 9.6 miles

Reached by an easy half-mile trail, pretty little Kelcema Lake is a pretty popular place during the summer months. But when winter casts its snowy shroud on the surrounding mountains, Kelcema is transformed into a much quieter place. With the access road leading to the short trail buried in snow, gone are the lake’s legion of visitors.

But winter is a great time to head to this 23-acre backcountry lake. All you need is a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis, and you can follow the road for a great crowd-free adventure. From the parking area at Deer Creek, head north onto snow covered Forest Road 4052. Don’t let the crowded parking area discourage you—most of those vehicle’s occupants have set out for the easier trip to the Big Four Ice Caves. And don’t let the distance to Kelcema discourage you either; the elevation gain is only 1,600 feet and the grade is gentle.

Start hiking passing through pockets of old-growth forest. Catch some decent views of Bald Mountain and Devils Peak guarding the way. At about 3.8 miles the way makes a sharp turn beneath Bald Mountain’s open east face. During heavy snowfalls this spot is prone to avalanches, so assess it for a safe passage and turn around if avalanche potential exists. Otherwise continue onward, snowshoeing another half mile to the well-signed trailhead.

Now head left into luxuriant old growth forest following alongside Deer Creek. Enter the Boulder Creek Wilderness, a large swath of wild country between the Stillaguamish River and its north fork. Stop to admire some massive cedars before reaching the lake in a subalpine basin beneath pointy Bald Mountain. The lake once housed a Boy Scout Camp attended by prominent Washington senator and conservationist Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. The camp is long gone, as are numerous mines in the surrounding ridges and valleys. A century ago, the area was bustling with activity. Today however, except for the sunniest of weekends, Kelcema Lake is a pretty quiet place.

Watch For: Giant Alaska yellow cedars among the monstrous western red cedars.

Getting there: From Seattle, follow I-5 north to Everett. Then take Highway 2 east to State Route 204 to Lake Stevens. Drive State Route 9 north to State Route 92 to Granite Falls, then follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 23.5 miles to Deer Creek Parking Area.

Craig Romano is the author of nine Washington state hiking books including Day Hiking North Cascades.

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