Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to Sheep Lake
A Rewarding Hike to an Alpine Lake
This easy hike along the Pacific Crest Trail leads to the beautiful Sheep Lake. It's a pretty short trek, just under an hour for us even though we stopped for lots of photos along the way. It's easy to see why the area is so popular. The water is clear and looks inviting; the peaks, meadows, and tress make for a beautiful backdrop; and the peacefulness throughout the area makes it hard to leave. With this being an easy to reach trailhead, as well as an easy hike, everyone should make it out here at least once. The rewards for the lack of difficulty are hard to find elsewhere.
Hiking to Sheep Lake
The trail from the parking lot follows along a ridge. The land slopes up to your left and down to your right. The trail was seeing plenty of traffic on this warm, clear Saturday, so making room on this sometimes narrow path was tricky. This time of year there is an abundance of wildflower blossoms. Butterflies were flitting all about enjoying the colorful bowls of nectar the flowers offered up. Looking up there was still mist swirling about the upper elevations, but that was to quickly burn off as the day warmed.
The trail makes its way gently upward and soon we left the ridge line and entered forest. The shade from the surrounding trees was a welcome respite from the warmth. As we mentioned, this is a short trail. It wasn't long before we rounded a turn and the lake was visible just ahead. There were numerous tents set up and already quite a few other hikers and campers scattered all around the lake. We followed the trail to the right and circled this clear body of water, stopping to photograph its loveliness from every angle. Sheep Lake is surrounded by a line of peaks and lies in a sort of protected little valley.
Meadows and swampier land fills the rest of this little valley and was all abloom with flower. There were numerous birds lingering ever near the campsites. Those naughty Grey Jays were ever present just waiting to snatch a free snack. The path is well defined around the lake and we made our way to a spot atop a larger boulder and took a break. The breeze created ripples across the surface of the turquoise water and lent relief to our now sweaty backs. We rested, snacked and just enjoyed the serenity of our surroundings. More hikers were making there way in now, groups of 10 or so at a time. We decided we should probably make some space and again donned our packs and returned to the trail. We stepped aside a number of times for others making their way up to make the most of this gorgeous day. We were glad we had gotten an earlier start!
This is an easy little hike that ends with views of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains! It's hard to ask for more when so little effort is involved. Easy to get to, ample parking, restrooms at the trail head and surrounded by beauty the entire length of the trail. This hike is great for groups, young and old, and of course your four legged companions! While exploring Mt. Rainier, this is a trail you don't want to pass up!
Many are familiar with the Pacific Crest Trail. Our hike consisted of only a small fraction of this 2,654-mile long trek which spans from Mexico to Canada. We look forward to exploring more of it in the future. If you're searching for a long distance trail, you can learn about the PCT and more by reading "Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails In The USA".
Parking for Sheep Lake
Getting to the parking lot for this wonderful hike is easy; finding a spot to park can be difficult. Arrive early! We reached the lot at 9am on a Saturday morning and it was already full. Across the street is another lot where hikers were also parking. Upon our return all lots were full, as well as the shoulders of the highway. Again, get here plenty early if it's a weekend and the weather is nice.
Use our map below, or by clicking here, to locate the trailhead and parking lots. You'll need to display a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the area, an Interagency Pass will also work. There's four vault toilets in the main lot and none that we noticed at the lake. You'll be hiking the PCT the whole way, so don't worry about not seeing signs for Sheep Lake.
Helpful Information for Visiting Sheep Lake
Coordinates: 46°52'31.5"N 121°31'05.2"W
Distance: 4.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 478'
Wildlife Seen: Chipmunks, tadpoles, birds