Soda Peaks Lake Trail is a 8.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Stevenson, Washington that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and birding and is best used from May until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
A grueling climb along a quiet but steep trail to a beautiful little lake. Listen for Pika calling in the talus slope on the east face of Soda Peaks and enjoy the peace and solitude. Soda Peaks Lake, formerly known as Lost Lake, is in the southern portion of the Trapper Creek Wilderness in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It is about 15 miles north of the town of Carson. The Soda Peaks Lake Trail (#133) passes by the lake and has trailheads both east and west of the lake. This approach takes you over the sturdy new footbridge at Trapper Creek for an unrelenting ascent to the destination. There are a number of good campsites at the lake, which lies nestled in a glacial cirque below the summit of an old volcano that erupted about 360,000 years ago. From the trailhead, enter Douglas-fir/hemlock woods with red-cedar, big-leaf maple, vine maple, a couple of western white pines, yew, sword fern, salal, Oregon grape, and red huckleberry. A few yards up is the Trapper Creek-Dry Creek Trail Junction. Continue on the Trapper Creek Trail #192. The tread ascends gradually and then keeps low along the side of Howe Ridge. This is old growth, with a few large hemlocks and Douglas-firs and many snags from an ancient fire. The woods are mossy, and a stunning glabrous green in wet weather. Enter the Trapper Creek Wilderness and then come to the Trapper Creek-Observation Peak Trail Junction. Keep straight on Trail #192 and cross Lush Creek on a footbridge; then head up to traverse along the side of the ridge again. Some bigger Douglas-firs and a few silver firs appear. Cross a footbridge over a rushing creek and come to the Trapper Creek-Soda Peaks Tie Trail Junction. Go left on this trail and descend below mossy, buttressed cedars, reaching an alder/big-leaf maple flat. A trail leads left to the Government Mineral Springs area and an unofficial trailhead; keep straight here to reach Trapper Creek. A sturdy new footbridge (2013) has been erected here. Pass under alders and then bear left to keep to the main trail. Passing some very large Douglas-firs and western hemlocks, you reach the Soda Peaks Lake-Soda Peaks Tie Trail Junction. The Soda Peaks Lake Trail leads left to a trailhead west of the mineral springs area (Starting there makes for a round-trip to the lake of 7.0 miles). Switchback up to the right under Douglas-fir, western hemlock, silver fir and yew. Keep switchbacking through woods of vanilla leaf, vine maple and cascara. There are openings created by blowdown where salal and cascara stand out. Reach the crest of the ridge, drop slightly, and then rise again. The trail skirts a knoll, from which there is a view of Mount Hood, and drops to a saddle, and then rises steeply again. Switchback at the ridge crest in hemlock woods and get views east to Observation Peak. There are some impressive Douglas-firs in this area also. Keep switchbacking up relentlessly. The trail rounds a rocky face, traverses through old growth and then passes across a vine maple/hazel scree slope. Head up again in old growth woods of Douglas-fir, western hemlock and silver fir. The trail levels and then drops, wending among some huge hemlocks. Then begin to traverse up again. On a clear day, you can take in views of Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams along this section. The trail switchbacks and heads steeply up before reaching the lake. Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Alaska yellow-cedar and silver fir surround the lake, which falls into deep shadow early in the afternoon. Theres a rushing outlet creek and a couple of decent campsites here. There are brook trout in the lake, so bring a rod if you want to fry one up for dinner. Courtesy of OregonHikers.org
Tough incline. Great view. No trailhead signage
The Trapper Creek Wilderness is a special place and I have a goal to hike all of the trails in it. This one has been on the list for a long time, mostly because I didn't know if I could make it. It is a difficult climb but I gave myself plenty of time to do it. The cooler temperatures helped but it rained for the first 7 miles of the hike so I had to make multiple stops to wring out my socks and boot inserts so I could avoid blisters. That worked well but was also time-consuming. Not many flowers in the TCW overall and I only really saw two or three varieties today. But it is very lush and verdant greenery, especially so when walking through head-high thickets of sopping wet. There are no views to speak of but along the ridgeline, the clouds made for some interesting photo opportunities as they settled in the valley.
The last push to the lake was quite difficult. There were quite a few people camping at the lake but all of them came in from the Soda Peaks Lake West trail, as it is much shorter with a lot less elevation gain. The campsites are pretty much right on the trail so it can be a bit awkward walking through people's campsites to stay on the trail around the lake. I fought my way through lots of ankle-grabbing undergrowth to do the lake circuit and heard a pika calling on the big talus slope on Soda Peaks. On my way back down, I passed quite a few backpackers on their way to the lake and a few day hikers. The descent almost took me as long, as it was super steep and a little tricky once it was wet, what with the rocks, roots and such that I had to step over. I was very glad to have my poles to help with balance.
Overall, a long and tiring hike but a rewarding one.