Trip Report: Scottish Lakes High Camp

This past weekend, Tom and I were able to escape for a very quick getaway while my Mom watched Rowan. Like everyone else in Washington, we wanted to see some larches (new experience for Tom!) but I really didn’t want to deal with the crowds. So we decided to do a quick overnight trip up to Scottish Lakes High Camp. We’d been there once before in the winter, but had never explored the area without snow and were excited to check it out.

We dropped Rowan off at my Mom’s house at noon and headed for the High Camp shuttle pick-up. We weren’t sure what traffic would be like on Hwy 2, but we quickly realized we had gobs of time to make our 4 pm pick-up, so we decided to stop at Lanham Lake on the way.

Lanham Lake was a good choice – it’s  one of those hikes that doesn’t really warrant its own trip, but makes a nice leg-stretcher if you’re driving along Hwy 2. The WTA site doesn’t do a great job of describing where the trailhead is located, so here’s a clue: currently, only one of the Stevens Pass Nordic Center lots is open. Park there, and then walk approx 1/4 mile up the forest service road that becomes the Main Line run in the winter. There you will see an obvious signed trailhead on your left. You can’t see the trailhead unless you walk up the road.

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Trailhead. WTA says it’s on the east side of the lower lot. That’s not quite right.
Washington drought: Big log on the right is the high-water crossing. Small log that Tom is standing on is the low-water crossing. Currently, the creekbed is dry.
As we reached Lanham Lake, it started to mist/snow. Much-needed precip.

We finished Lanham Lake in a little over an hour, which still gave us plenty of time to meet the shuttle up to Scottish Lakes High Camp. Our shuttle driver and one of the hosts for the weekend was Gus. In addition to working at High Camp, Gus is a wildlife biologist who specializes in large carnivores. On the drive up, we got him talking about the behavior, habitat and distribution of large carnivores like grizzlies, black bears, wolves, mountain lions and wolverines. Super fascinating and made the shuttle ride up the mountain go by almost too quickly. It’d be really cool if High Camp did a “wildlife weekend” featuring Gus as a speaker!

High Camp itself was just as we remembered it: super friendly staff, off-the-grid cabins heated by wood-burning stoves, and a fun community feel. Last time we were there we didn’t have cell coverage… this time we did. We pretended otherwise by turning off our cell phones while we were up there.

Home for the night.
Inside the cabin.
Wood carving in the main lodge.

We had to get back to Rowan by Sunday afternoon, so we woke up early Sunday morning and were on the trail by 6:45 am. Gus had given us some very detailed instructions on a partly off-trail loop up McCue Ridge and then back to camp via the Scottish Lakes. If you spend the night at High Camp I’m sure one of the hosts can give you all the info you need to navigate the route.

We hit the ridge just as the sun was coming up, and then meandered along the narrowing ridgeline before dropping down to Loch Eileen and picking up an established trail back to camp.

The larches are looking great along McCue Ridge. And even though it was a beautiful fall Sunday in larch land, we only saw 2 other parties all morning: one runner on the established trail near Lake Julius, and three mountain bikers on a forest service road as we approached camp. We ❤ Scottish Lakes High Camp.

Sunrise as Tom makes his way up “Fireline trail” (which is actually just a fireline established by wildland firefighters a year or two ago).
Picking our way along Stegosaurus Rock.
Views from McCue Ridge
Headed up the ridge
Larch reflections in Lake Donald
Lakes Julius and Donald just visible through the larches.
Another view of Donald


Ridiculous fall colors on the drive home.

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