Merritt Lk & Alpine LO (Sep 19, 2015)

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alpine_lo_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Mount Howard, USGS Lake Wenatchee
Area: Stevens Pass
Reference: Day Hiking Central Cascades
Stats: 14.18mi, 4453' gain (round trip)

The trip to Alpine LO has been on my list for the past few years. I was up there many years ago but that trip was long enough ago that I'd forgot many of the details. I do know that we hiked up via the Alpine LO trailhead (east side of the ridge). This time...with a different car (lower clearance) I knew we couldn't get to the "regular" trailhead (a friend had just been up there and advised of some deep ruts that my Jetta likely couldn't negotiate). So, I figured we would hike up the Merritt Lk trail and then head over to the lookout via the Nason Ridge trail. It was a good plan but it was also a long day with lots of miles.

We didn't exactly get an early start. I didn't leave my house until after 8am and then a couple of stops along the way (one at the bakery in Sultan)... Well, we got to the trailhead (3044') and started up the trail about 11am.

The Merritt Lk trail is steep (not super steep but steep enough to need lots of switchbacks) for the first 2.5 miles (4580') and then it eases up a bit. We got to the lake (3.5mi, 5029') at about 12:30pm and had the place pretty much to ourselves. There were a couple of other hikers out and about but we hardly saw anyone at the lake. We didn't stay long, I knew sunset would come about 7pm and I really wanted to make it all the way to the lookout.

The trail switches back a couple of times above the lake, then kind of gets to the ridge and then follows the ridge to the lookout. The trail to the ridge was in pretty good shape up to the small saddle at about 5.5mi (5538'). After this point is did look like the amount of foot traffic diminished because the trail got narrower, slumped more, and was pretty overgrown in a few sections. Even so...it is easy to follow.

At about the 7mi mark we reached the junction with the Alpine LO trail that comes up from the east side of Nason Ridge. From this junction it is just another steep and short section of trail until we reached the lookout site. I was hoping it would still be open but after talking with a friend afterwards, it had been shuttered for the season just a few days prior.

Very few views today since we had low clouds that had settled in for the day. Thankfully though, it wasn't too windy. With few views we didn't stay long. Good thing because we had a long hike to get back out to the car. With out late start the ridge seemed deserted on the hike out. We were back to the car right about 7pm.
 
Alpine LO Slideshow

alpine_lo_map

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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