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Alta Lake State Park

North Cascades


North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth
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1.2 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 780 ft.
Highest Point: 1980 ft.


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WTA worked here: 2016

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

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This trail is short and steep with great views. The rocky, arid climate of eastern Washington is on full display as this crumbly-at-times trail snakes up through cliff bands and rock gardens.

Alta Lake State Park was originally a gift from a local benefactor to the town of Pateros. Recreation is generally water based with good fishing. This short trail gains a quick 700 feet in under a mile on reasonably good tread. The terrain is steep though and some cutting of switchbacks has led to erosion problems near the top.

The trail is obvious at the start as it winds through immense bitter brush bushes and the occasional big leaf sage overhead. This mature shrub-steppe community will continue throughout the hike blending in more and more ponderosa and bunch grasses the higher you get. After a tenth of a mile or so a well graded gravel road is crossed that loops the state park. At this point the terrain steepens and the trail gets a little more serious. Originally built for stock, the trail is stout, though time has taken its toll on the corners.

Another quarter mile up and hikers will pass a cliff band that has crumpled into a rustic rock garden. Skillfully the trail winds tightly through this cluster before returning to grassy hillside switchbacks. One long steady traverse toward the north takes the trail to a final push through an eroded cliff band.

The summit of this rocky knoll has expansive views. Dyer Hill’s flat basalt flows to the east, Arbuckle Mountain and Alta Coulee define a rugged landscape gouged out by ice-age floods due south. The springtime flower show is early and spectacular here, the summer can be deathly hot.


Alta Lake State Park

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.0250, -119.9401 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth

Washington State Parks

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Getting There

Drive north on SR 153 from Pateros, Washington towards Winthrop. At about 2 miles turn left onto FS 1517 signed for Alta Lake State Park. Follow this paved road for about 2 miles past a golf course to the entrance to Alta Lake State Park. After entering the park, stay straight with the lake on your left. The trailhead is on the right one-half mile ahead. There is a restroom at the trailhead. As the trailhead is located at a campground, you may need to park at a different day-use site and walk to the trailhead.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

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Alta Lake State Park

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