Our Eagle Lake Trail Hike And Camping Experience
As our first real hike in, overnight camping trip of the year, I wanted a relatively easy trail for my 10 year old daughter to navigate. Eagle Lake Fisherman’s Trail according to the guides would be just such a trail.
After packing all the essentials for an overnight trip, my daughter and I set out mid morning for Eagle Lake. The drive out to Skykomish is always a mix of the mundane at the start, slowly evolving into more and more wild as one heads East into the wilderness. Eventually we hit Skykomish and turned left up Beckler Road and the adventure started.
Unlike most places in Western Washington, the trail up to the Eagle Lake Fisherman’s Trail isn’t paved. It never ceases to amaze me the places that are considering that I grew up in North Idaho, where not even all the streets in town were paved and the ones that were, weren’t that great. A quick left off Beckler put us on logging roads that were still soft with winter runoff. That quickly changed to broken fill rock and the road grew rough.
The forest service road we were on climbed steadily and at a few points where it crossed clear cuts, offered some stunning views of the valley below. My daughter was not impressed by the combination of the narrowness of the road and the near vertical drops on the sides.
The Eagle Lake Fisherman’s Trail trail head is an unremarkable spot where the road makes a tight bend. There is a Forest Service marker sign and that is pretty much it. We loaded up, chatted briefly with some other hikers that were heading in and started up the trail.
The trail starts out with what feels like an almost deliberately placed tunnel of trees that arch over the trail that starts out relatively flat. We emerged from these tiny trees, crossed a small patch of boulders and entered the forest proper on the narrow track. The trail itself is not particularly difficult, occasionally blocked by fallen trees or other minor obstacles, but it far from a flat walk in the park. As you are hiking, don’t forget to look around.
While most of the trees are sizeable 2nd growth, there are several huge trees that are ~5-6′ across that escaped logging the first time through. They are truly massive and worth pausing to take in. Occasionally, breaks in the trees revealed views of the ridge on the opposite side of the canyon.
Eventually the trail starts dropping again and descends to the swampy ground below the lake. Trail instructions say to follow the flags, but we lost them somewhere and had to wander around a bit, 1000′ feet from the lake until we found a trail through the scrubby brush to the two camp sites that sit on opposite sides of the stream flowing out of Eagle Lake.
Camping At Eagle Lake
Both camp sites at Eagle Lake are relatively well developed and have fire rings and a flat spot for a tent. You may want to scrounge fire wood along the way if you want a fire though, as there is little in the immediate vicinity. If you are lucky you may get a chance to camp in the cabin that sits at the Southern corner of the lake. If you zoom in on Google Earth, you can see the roof of the cabin.
For sanitation’s sake someone has built a primitive toilet as well, just East of both the camp sites. Follow the sign and red flags and you will find it sitting on a rise, all by itself.
Quite honestly there isn’t a lot to do at Eagle Lake besides camp out. The trail as far as I can tell doesn’t ring the lake and the only accessible shoreline is right in front of the cabin. There are some open spots, but they would require some slogging through the brush to get to.
The camp sites do give a great view of the South East side of Gunn Peak.
My daughter and I set camp and ate our dinner, then explored a bit. The only other campers up there were a dad, his son and two incredibly hairy Malamutes. Evening was setting in but my daughter was far from ready to sleep so we wandered over to the cabin for the second time, where we wound up in a snowball fight with him and his son as the dogs barked in protest at the fun.
Beyond that, the night was relatively uneventful and we broke camp in the morning and headed home. While I can’t say that Eagle Lake is my favorite place to camp, it would make for a great day hike, or even a weekend if you wanted to make the effort to climb the ridge or make your way around the lake and explore.
Fishing In Eagle Lake
For a high mountain lake, Eagle Lake is incredibly shallow, ranging into the 20′ depths in the middle. It does support a small population of trout, evidenced by them jumping for bugs in the afternoon. The other camper said that some trout in the 12″ to 18″ range can be found in the lake, which is surprising to me considering the size and depth of Eagle Lake.
I definitely would lean towards catch and release up there, as it likely wouldn’t take much to wipe out the fish population.
Final Thoughts On Eagle Lake
On the whole, we really enjoyed the Eagle Lake Fisherman’s Trail and the lake itself. We had to get back to the world fairly early the following day so didn’t explore much more, but both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the trail and at the lake itself. Not sure I’d be up for hiking just for the night again, but packing in for a weekend might be fun if we could scramble our way up to the peak of Mount Townsend.