Hiking to Lake Christine in Glacier View Wilderness
Through the Meadow We Go
When is summer going to arrive in the Pacific Northwest? That's a question we keep asking ourselves. Earlier this week we were once again met with rain, clouds, and chilly temperatures during our hike. We were hoping for views of Mt. Rainier's glaciers but the majority of our journey through Glacier View Wilderness left us with seeing no more than the tops of nearby trees. This certainly didn't stop us, and shouldn't stop you, from trekking to the beautiful Lake Christine.
A Beautiful Pacific Northwest Lake
We parked at the Glacier View Trailhead and began hiking. We entered the forest and had a brief stretch of fairly level path before us. Soon we began to descend down and deeper into the trees. The clouds were low and there was misty fog just overhead and to be seen in all directions. The vegetation adjacent and often encroaching on the trail was laden with water droplets from the surrounding dampness. As we made our way along, the vegetation happily donated these droplets of moisture to our clothing as we brushed by. This was a wet one. Soon we reached the bottom of our downward track and to our right the forest opened to meadow. Pools of water and connecting waterways of a creek or stream fed these pools. Tall grasses were prevalent in this marshy area and with the fog, just painted a serene and mostly silent landscape. The forest continued on our left, but more meadow skirted our trail on the right. There were waterways coursing through with periodic pools, but the areas surrounding the water became less marshy and hosted a great number of wildflowers.
We took long pauses to examine the meadow areas here, it must be a place where wildlife can often be seen. We saw none :( Continuing on, the trail began to take an upward turn and we were again surrounded by forest on all sides. The trail continued its upward direction and soon we were in the fog and clouds that had formerly been above. Patches of avalanche Lilies were to be seen here and there and we continued, a few patches of snow were still present. We reached the lip of this bowl we had just ascended from and the trail again took a downward turn. The forest thinned a bit here and there were smaller meadow areas with wildflowers to our left now.
The trees opened ahead of us and we began to see portions of Lake Christine. The closer we got, the more lovely the view became. Crystal clear waters with tropical emerald to blue gradients in the deeper portions. The trees reflected in mirror fashion on the surface, only interrupted by the ripples created by the chilly gusts of wind that were now present. We had been shielded from the breeze, but now in this open area the temperature was much cooler. The lake was hard to take our eyes off of. There were fallen trees seen beneath the surface of the water and looking more closely we noticed a number of salamanders.
After surveying the lake, we followed a bit of the trail up and away from one end. We could only see a bit, but land dropped off and created a waterfall that drained from the lake. We decided to turn back at this point and retraced our steps past the lake, up hill, down hill and again were greeted by the meadow. This time we were lucky. We noticed some movement in one of the pools and spotted a pair of otters frolicking, rolling and playing in the water. Otters are one of those creatures that seem to always be having the time of their lives. We stood and watched for some time, spirits lifted by the perceived joy coming from the otters. We watched from the trail until the two hopped out of the water and bounced away through the grass. As we reached the end of the meadow, we noticed the otters again much further away and making their way into the woods. We made our way back up the last hill and returned to our starting point.
The most difficult part of this trail was probably the rough road to the trail head. While the trail does boast some ups and downs, there is plenty of scenery to reward you along the route. Meadows, waterways, wildflowers, wildlife, a beautiful lake and on this foggy day only peek-a-boo views of adjacent mountain peaks. While we always hope for nice weather when we're planning our hikes, there is something to be said about the added elements of fog and mist. The forest was draped in silence and the lack of clear views was replaced by a whisper of mystery. We were soaked from the feet up mid thigh and it was a chilly day, but this was beautiful hike.
This hike is located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, just to the west border of Mt. Rainier National Park. You'll take Highway 706 three miles east of the town of Ashford and make a left on NF-59. This forest road was not marked at all when we visited. We actually passed by it at first. If you go by Copper Creek Inn then you've gone to far. If you reach the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance then you've really gone too far. This trail is not inside of the park. Once on NF-59 you'll stay the course for 8.5 miles (according to our GPS app). Make sure you don't take any cutoff roads (which there are plenty). The drive up does have pretty large potholes but all vehicles will be able to make it. You'll be getting close to the trailhead once the road begins to dip in elevation. Don't let that part fool you into thinking you've made a wrong turn. Continue on and you'll eventually reach the parking lot, which is also the end of the road.
From here you'll see the trailhead for Glacier View. Start on that for a short while until you reach a junction. Make a right. Continue on this trail and it will soon start to drop in elevation, leading down to the meadow. It wraps around the edge of the meadow, begins to climb to the top of a ridge to another junction. Going right will take you to the summit of Mt. Beljica, left to Lake Christine. Make the left and you'll reach the lake in about 2,000 feet.
Trailhead Coordinates: 46.796214, -121.947899
Distance: 5.3 Miles Roundtrip
Wildlife Seen: Birds, Otters