Clear Lost Trail is a 13.9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Randle, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from March until November.
8-1-15, Clear Lost Trail:
This is a great hike and can be difficult at times, however…it’s a bit hard to find and not easily seen from Hwy 12. I did a solo, day hike from the Clear Lost Trail #76 trailhead to the “Old Lookout Site” at the junction of Bluff Lake Trail #65, for a 16.3 mile out and back that took 11 hours counting stops with a 4347 foot elevation gain RT.
The road to Clear Lost Trail TH is excellent. It’s off Hwy 12 however, there are no road signs and is easily driven by as it looks like one of the many pullouts on Hwy 12. Plus the trail itself isn’t easily seen from the road and the registration box is 75ft down the trail. Here’s how to tell: The pullout is on a corner. The pullout guardrail stops near the trail entrance. The guardrail restarts on the corner and is marked with 3 yellow/black diagonal striped signs. One sign on the beginning of the guardrail and two signs on a pole above the guardrail. The trail/registration box is to the right of the 3 signs and below the road. While this is a pullout, there can be limited parking.
From the get to, you go down loosing approximately 900ft the first mile. At the bottom there’s an area to camp next to the Clear Fork Creek. There is no bridge and will need to be forded. The creek is very low but expect to get your feet wet.
From there it’s UP until the Old Lookout Site. After 2.5 miles is the four-way junction of Clear Fork Trail #61 and Clear lost Trail #76, the site of Dewey’s Cabin. An old fallen cabin. This junction is clearly marked on a downed log. I missed it because I was looking up for signage not down. That said, if you have a map, it’s quite obvious your direction.
After is a gentle climb that gets steeper as you go and levels out for a bit at the junction of Coyote Lake 2.5 miles later. There was no signage that I could see but if you have a map, still clear as its direction. This is where you get your first views of Mt. Rainier and other peaks. About a mile later is a small lake in an alpine meadow below beautiful cliffs. This is the only source of water since Clear Fork Creek 5 miles ago. Climb another 1/2 mile to Lost Hat Lake. This lake is at the bottom of a cirque and only half its original size. Not sure if that’s normal or this year’s low snow level. There were a lot of animal tracks at the lakes edge. A popular watering hole I guess and the reason I opted to get water elsewhere.
Next climb about 800ft in .9 miles to the Old Lookout Site at the junction of Bluff Lake Trail #65 at 6200ft elevation. This was a tough section for me. Steep and very hot and was running out of water with little shade at the top. From Lost Hat Lake on is all alpine and the trees become scarce but there was a nice breeze at times that was welcomed! The lookout is on a peak that’s thin and long. From the top you can see Coyote Lake below. Beautiful. There is the three mountain view of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mount St. Helens and in the distance, White Pass Ski lifts.
The return trip went much faster but that’s to be expected since its all downhill, but even the last climb to the car wasn’t that bad. All and all, this was a great hike. Wonderful views once you entered the alpine area near Lost Hat Lake and if you’re multiday hiking, there is camping at Lost Hat and Coyote Lakes. I’d rate this hike as moderately difficult due to its elevation gain.