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Big Heart Lake via West Fork Foss Lakes Trail

HARD 56 reviews
#9 of 34 trails in

Big Heart Lake via West Fork Foss Lakes Trail is a 13.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Skykomish, Washington that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 13.4 miles Elevation Gain: 4,064 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

bird watching

beach

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

If you want to experience some of the ruggedness and wild beauty that exists in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area, this is a great hike that will cover all those bases. Several unspoiled lakes filled with trout, blue waters that are unmatched for sparkling clarity, and surrounded with barren slopes all, with their own character that make each lake unmistakable. From the trailhead, the first part of the trail seems to be walking up an old stream bed, very rocky and loose. After about a 1000ft or so, it becomes more trail like, and then follows the West Fork Foss River for awhile, giving you views of the surrounding sheer rock face that lines the river here. Once you reach the river crossing, you will notice that you have to follow rock cairns, as the river washed out this part of trail. At the point that you need to cross the river, it will be over a log that has a step nailed into it on the opposite side, making it easier to step down, or up. From here, pay close attention, as the continuing trail here is not well marked! The trail begins again about another 50 feet or so, on your right. Back on the trail, it continues on towards Trout Lake through old growth fir, cedar and hemlock, and the trail is easy to follow here. There are several campsites here, along the banks of the lake, and further back into the woods. From Trout Lake on, it starts getting steep, at about 2.6 miles in. Eventually, you break out into the open, and you can see a huge waterfall cascading down barren rock. This waterfall runs out of Copper Lake, the next lake you’ll see on this hike. The open here is traversed with switchbacks through scrub brush, and it’s steep. You’ll gain 1800 feet of elevation in 1.5 miles. This is not a section of trail that you want to do in the midday sun, so if you can, avoid that…If you go during the heat of the day, there is a small stream at the top of the switchbacks, that will be a good source of water, and a place to cool down, as it’s in the shade. Once you reach this point, the hard part is behind you. At the Malachite Lake trail junction, you’re at 4.17 miles, and the uphill is more gradual, and at 4.4 miles, you reach Copper Lake, another beautiful subalpine lake surrounded on three sides by steep, barren slopes, interspersed with clingy alpine firs. The lake walk itself rises and falls with the terrain, and there are several great viewpoints and a few campsites at the Northern end of the lake. The trail along the lake goes .7 miles over and around some jumbled boulders before you start your uphill once again at the southern end of Copper Lake. The trail is still good here, and in .5 miles, you’ll find yourself at the edge of Little Heart Lake. A small, circular lake that you really have to get off trail to see well, you can see it through the trees from where you’re at, but to take pictures, you’ll have to walk over to its banks. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to camp here, at least that could be seen from the trail. Continuing uphill to your final destination at Big Heart Lake, you find that once again, you’re steadily going up. Another 760 feet, to be exact, and it’s a rugged trail, but along the way, you’ll have spectacular views of the deep valley to the East, over your left shoulder, towards Mt. Baker, Delta Lake down below you, and Silver Eagle Peak sitting above Delta Lake. At the high point of this ridge, it’s rocky, and dry. After you’ve topped out at 4935ft, you’ll drop back down to the edge of Big Heart Lake, at 4162 ft elevation. A spectacular deep blue lake, surrounded by barren peaks, still adorned in small snow fields, and sparse alpine firs. Its outlet creates a long sloping falls that helps to cool you on hot days. The lake itself is warm enough to swim in, and it also is a refreshing way to end a hike. If you bring your trout pole, there is ample fishing, as well. There are a few good campsites here at the Northern edge of the lake, and they are close to the water’s edge. Further in, and up beyond a small meadow covered in low lying blueberries to a site that was perched overlooking the lake, where you are able to take in all its’ beauty. A little further from water, but the views were spectacular. From here sitting with my back against a convenient rock face, you can look left, and see the lake and surrounding peaks, and look right, and see Mt. Baker in the distance, across several smaller hills and valleys. There is, from here, another hikers trail that heads off towards Angeline Lake, that lies just over the ridgeline, that does not show up on some maps. Permit required for overnight camping.

hiking
18 hours ago

Drop dead gorgeous from trailhead to Big Heart. Trail is very clear, but quite a hump getting up to Copper Lake.

hiking
18 days ago

Phone tracked ~17mi round trip from the trailhead to big heart lake. Amazing views but bring lots of water.

backpacking
19 days ago

This time of year the lower parts of the Foss River were entirely dried up. Considering how deep the channel is, this was a shame. I imagine the river at full force is really something to see. I was concerned we wouldn't get to see much running water, but as we passed Trout Lake my fears were put to rest. You could see/hear Malachite Falls in the distance, and this was also where the path started getting difficult. There are a series of switchbacks that go on for about a mile. Lots of climbing, a rocky path and the trail is very exposed to the sun. It's also oddly humid; among the ferns it almost felt like we'd left the PNW and found the tropics. With backpacking gear on this was a tough push upwards, and even worse on my joints coming back down. Even if you're just day hiking, I highly recommend lots of water and sturdy and supportive shoes. We passed some people who were really struggling during this segment and it could've been made a lot easier with more prep. The trail does get more cool and shaded again after this push, and you continue on to Copper Lake which is a beautiful deep teal color. This seemed to be the destination for a lot of day hikers. We continued a short ways to Little Heart and slept there for the night. It's a very peaceful area with awesome access to the lake itself. Very few logs that will stab you and while the water was cold, it was more refreshing than numbing. The next day we continued to Big Heart and got some great views of Delta Lake on the way. Big Heart is beautiful and very popular. We managed to get a spot solely due to being there early. Despite its size there really aren't that many campsites, and throughout the day they filled quickly. We saw many tired hikers who had wanted to stay in the area but couldn't find any room, so they were forced to double back or push on to Angeline. Angeline is a short distance away, however from what I understand it's a hard and exposed scramble over rock, so I don't recommend going into it when you're already drained. Fishing was good and my partner and I went out on the lake in our raft, which was a lot of fun.

backpacking
no shade
19 days ago

Trail was in great shape! First 1 1/2 miles were fairly easy... Once you pass Trout Lake you’re reward with uphill, with sun exposure(if you start late), until you reach Cooper Lake. As you traverse Cooper, you get a break from the steep elevation gain, then you’re pretty much uphill all the way to Big Heart. The camping that I saw at Big Heart pretty much all on the main trail with a few exceptions... If you continue on the trail turns into a fairly well marked unmaintained trail... I topped out out above Angeline and Big Heart and headed back to my elevation camp. Overall fun, but tiresome if your conditioning isn’t great and your pack is heavy.

hiking
1 month ago

Great time on a well-maintained trail!

hiking
1 month ago

longer than listed to big heart and back - we tracked 17+

hiking
bugs
2 months ago

beautiful trail to an awesome High Alpine lake. trail gets remote and exceptionally rugged beyond here.

backpacking
bugs
2 months ago

Ok. I realize I just reviewed this trail a few weeks ago, but I didn't get very far and decided to try again. Still a great trail, but a very different experience this time. It starts at the trailhead, where cars were parked down the road and even into the sweet trailhead campsite that I had mentioned before. So.. lots of people. Was lucky to find a spot and glad to find the toilet at the trailhead open (it wasn't before). Overall, this is still a very cool trail and well maintained. It's challenging, but not too bad. The initial hike to Trout (about 1.7 miles) is fairly easy, and then it gets challenging all the way to Copper. Was shooting for Big Heart Lake, and got a late start, so decided not to do the side route to Malachite. Some folks said it's a bit of a scramble and they had seen others leave their packs at the top to explore. I was afraid of running out of daylight, so I pressed on. Copper Lake isn't much farther, and upon arrival I was greeted with lots and lots of overnight hikers. It was a bit like a public beach with campers staking out territory by the water. I guess this is the norm for summer hiking in Seattle. Copper Lake is beautiful and large. It took me a while to get around it, which isn't a bad thing because the view is fantastic. Once you leave Copper, it's a short hike to Little Heart. Also beautiful, and a little more serene with less activity along the trail. Just as I was about to leave the lake, I met a hiker coming back from Big Heart. He indicated that it was very busy with campers and it might be difficult to find a spot to set up. Even though Big Heart was my goal, I decided to camp by Little Heart and enjoy the solitude. There were a few other campers around the lake, but it was very peaceful. Bugs weren't terrible, but did get pretty annoying at night. The morning was brutal and I had to eat breakfast with a net on. All in all it was a great hike, and aside from the bugs and crowds, would still be my favorite.

backpacking
bugs
muddy
rocky
snow
3 months ago

Hiked up to Copper lake for our first overnight trip of the year. Trail is in great shape, dry to Trout lake. After Trout lake, there were occasional muddy patches all the way up, but nothing thick or difficult. There are several rocky patches, most were easy to navigate up, but led to some tricky footing on the way down. Aside from one 3' patch of snow 15' off the trail at one of the waterfall views, the trail was snow free until after the junction to Malachite and Copper Lakes. I was a bit apprehensive to do much exploring since we got a bit of a later start than I wanted and we had already decided to camp at Copper, so we didn't take the Malachite side trail and don't have an update for the conditions. We had passed a pair of hikers that said campgrounds in Copper were dryer so we chose that. After the junction to Copper Lake, we soon began to see snow along the trail. We didn't need spikes but poles were helpful. Most of the snow is alongside the trail, but most patches on the trail are very easy to cross. There was one larger section where we were fortunate to see that a small hole had formed over one of the drainage cuts (suspiciously boot shaped, so I assume someone else was not as fortunate) so we were able to step across the drainage cut without falling through the snow. The river crossing to the lake was very easy and there were several clear and dry campgrounds. As we arrived at Copper lake we ran into another pair of hikers that had ventured beyond Copper Lake a bit, they said the snow got deeper as the trail went south beyond the lake, and didn't get higher than about 4300' of elevation scrambling around. I suspect that little and big Heart lakes would be a difficult trail. They said they only had yaktrax and didn't want to push it. We had debated beforehand if we should wear our goretex hiking boots or non-waterproof trail runners with gaiters. With the prospect of snow, we chose the boots and that turned out to be a decision we reminded ourselves several times was a good one. Between mud, the rocks, the river crossings, and the snow, we would have been very wet or had sore ankles. Now on to the good stuff: The falls are absolutely spectacular, the early season snow melt has them at full awesome power. There are several breathtaking views along the way. Both Trout and Copper Lakes are gorgeous right now. Copper was so clear and calm, the reflections were beautiful. Camping fantastic, only a bit heavy with bugs, though we had plenty of bug proofing to keep from getting bit. Only critters we saw were a chipmunk and the cutest pika that just popped his head up and watched us as we relaxed by the lake. Unfortunately he dove into a burrow before I could get my camera. Overall, great overnight trip!

hiking
snow
5 months ago

I debated saying this hike was terrible, but only because I want it all to myself. :) My favorite hike in WA so far, and we didn't even make it to Big Heart Lake (or Copper, for that matter) so I can only review the bottom 1/2 of the trail. Got there Friday night and found a sweet spot by the trailhead to car-camp. Set out in the morning and was impressed by the beautiful forest, river, and well-maintained trail. Starts off really easy to get your legs warmed up and then starts climbing after passing Trout Lake. Some amazingly large trees along the way (see picture). As you climb towards a massive waterfall, you bounce between woods and clearings. It gets warm in the open areas, even in May. Some really well built/maintained bridges to cross the river a couple times on the way up too. Unfortunately, we hit snow just before Copper Lake and turned back before it got too deep. We weren't dressed for it and were only doing a day hike, so decided it was best to come back another time. I'm looking forward to hiking all the way to Big Heart (or beyond) and camping out later in the summer.

hiking
11 months ago

This was a great hike. We camped at Trout Lake and did a day hike up to Copper and Little Heart Lakes the next day (why haul a 20+ pound pack all the way up there). Camping at Trout was so quiet and the ground so soft we couldn't even hear others walking by on the trail - side note, it was so quiet that you also couldn't hear someone walking up to the toilet, when you happened to be sitting on it, until you made awkward eye contact. We quickly learned to use our poles to signal that someone was up there. The hike up to Copper followed a huge (tall) waterfall and wasn't nearly as open or rocky as I expected. Based on other reviews i thought we'd be bouldering up and was preparing myself for that (ptsd from hiking up Aasgard's pass probably). It was rocky but nothing you couldn't just step over. No bugs to worry about, and only saw a few chipmunks and a couple of very upset, territorial squirrels. All in all, a really great weekend hike.

backpacking
Wednesday, August 01, 2018

A gorgeous trip. My best friend and I started at 9:30am and went up to big heart lake and the one above it and back to the car by 5:30pm with a 1-2min water break every 20min or so and an hour for lunch and swimming. The lakes were definitely very cold but bearable and felt great to ice sore feet. Bring a hat because for a lot of the hike your arms and face are exposed in the sun while you hike thru gorgeous wildflowers. A very very well maintained trail. Lots of campsites and we passed three trail workers on our way who said they were so bored because they had nothing to do haha. A wonderful day trip. The issue was the bugs. I'm not a complainer but the upper lakes have serious fly, hornet and mosquitoes, however I wasn't bit once by anything with zero bug repellant on me. Mainly my ears got attacked by that annoying thing flies do. If you're moving, nothing bothers you but as soon as you stop they swarm. Still, neither of us were bit. Just bring a gallon of spray. Don't let that keep you from the hike though! It was gorgeous.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Went with some buddies for a couple days. Hiked in friday evening for a quick camp set up. Got up mid morning Saturday and hiked up to Copper Lake took some pool floats and floated/fished for a couple hours. Moved on to Little Heart hit the peak in between little and big but one buddy was worse for wear so we turned back and made camp back by Copper. Bug netting currently is a must they get quite thick in areas. There is a longer stretch in between Trout and Copper Lake that is exposed to the sun so some refill water often(we used sawyer squeeze filters) and remember sunscreen. Overall the beauty and experience is worth the trip Enjoy!

hiking
Sunday, July 08, 2018

Only went as far as Copper Lake. Sign says 4 miles - I say 5. Beautiful hike though. Copper lake was so beautiful- almost surreal. I suggest mosquito netting/bug deterrent though.

hiking
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Went on a a day hike with the intentions of getting to Big Heart Lake. We got to the trailhead early, but I wasn't feeling the best so we took it slow and we ended up turning around at Little Heart. Beautiful sights all around. Waterfalls, creeks, and of course multiple beautiful lakes to explore. There were some wildflowers still left at this point in August, as well as plenty of berries to pick. We took the trail to Malachite Lake which was pretty steep, but well worth it. Definitely looking forward to returning for a few days with backpacks to complete the trek! My phone also died so we were only able to record our hike in!

backpacking
Saturday, August 12, 2017

There are many lakes, do it is a good idea to know which Lake you're looking for. I went Thursday-Saturday and on Friday it got pretty busy.

hiking
Monday, October 17, 2016

The hike is beautiful, and can be done in one day - all the way to Big Heart and back took about 8 hours. Although Copper lake looked more interesting for camping. After the fall rains the waterfalls were quite amazing!

backpacking
Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bring bug netting! The mosquitos were insane. I didn't bring a tent or bivy and was kicking myself. I planned to do 2 nights at Big Heart, and cut it short after the first night. Otherwise, the hike and scenery were superb!

backpacking
Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mosquitos were terrible. They seemed to be the worst at Big Heart Lake. Otherwise, it was great. Beautiful views everywhere you look once you get past the first couple lakes.

camping
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Great hike, definitely not for the weak of heart or legs but the hike up to Copper Lake is beautiful and there are a lot of cool camping spots! Worth the relentless and steep hike! Trout lake would make an awesome beginners hike

camping
Monday, June 15, 2015

this hike starts out easy to trout lake, but immediately after, the trail steepens and becomes much more rugged. although a tough climb, the lakes waterfalls, and views give you many rewards along the way. Hiked that day to copper lake in a little less than 4 hours and camped there. but the next day, meandered to little heart lake where we saw a few campsites that looked really nice and secluded. highs of the hike: lots of rewards, variety of scenery lows of the hike: many people, rugged terrain

hiking
Sunday, June 08, 2014

The trail to Trout Lake was easy going and suitable for any age. The shallow lake itself was not very interesting but peaceful and from what I could tell a popular fishing destination with a couple of camping sites. Beyond Trout Lake the trail became rocky and gained elevation becoming more difficult. After about another mile is the first glance of massive Malachite Falls which are about twice as big as nearby Wallace Falls and very impressive. Shortly after the bridge crossing below Copper Lake I ran into deep snow. I was scrambling around a bit before finally finding beautiful Copper Lake. I turned around from there in order to avoid getting lost. I plan on coming back in the future and making it to all of the lakes. The pot holes on the dirt road to the TH are big and they are deep, but if you take your time you shouldn't have any trouble.

hiking
Sunday, June 08, 2014

This trail is awesome. Not easy, but not hard until after Trout Lake, that's when you really start to climb. The first lake (Trout Lake) is only a mile and a half in, and so worth to walk. I went the last 2 weekend of May. There were still fallen trees on the trail the first time out, but there were cleared the following weekend. The first time up I only went to Trout lake and this lake is so beautiful. Crystal clear and with the snow covered mountains behind it looked amazing. On the second trip out I had planned to go all the way to Big Heart Lake. Less then a mile from Copper Lake the trail was lost under the snow pack, and once I realized that there was flowing water under most of the snow I was walking on, I turned around and camped close to Trout Lake. The views were breath taking at one point I could see 5 water falls at once. Loved this trail.

hiking
Saturday, May 31, 2014

Took our 3 year old son on his first hike, he walked to Trout Lake and we hand to carry him back. Large Hemlocks and the rapids near the bridge make this one worth it.

hiking
Monday, May 19, 2014

This trail has a lot going on if you are paying attention. Got to the 4+ mile off-roading trailhead a little after 8am today with 1 car in the parking lot. SUV/Truck with 4-wheel drive is a MUST to reach this trailhead-dirt road with LOTS of washboards and pot holes. Trail is not heavily used at all-lots of overgrown brush, loose rocks, massive fallen trees to climb over, and stream crossings. It was a great day to hike and everything was going well until we hit the 4.5 mile mark. The snow pack came on at his point and did not give up, we turned around at 4.9 miles defeated, promising to return for a late summer trek to Angeline and Big Heart Lake.

hiking
Monday, July 29, 2013

We only made it to the first lake, trout lake, because we had a 10-year-old with us. Not the best trail for kids. An easy trail to follow, weaving around the river. Once at the lake there are signs for restrooms, but when you follow the signs.... No restrooms. Bring TP.

hiking
Wednesday, May 01, 2013

beautiful lakes, went as far as the fifth one (Big Heart Lake). Trail is well defined but very rugged/

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