Hike of the Month: Greider Lakes
Greider Lakes Hike
I love this hike for its relative solitude. The hike itself is nice, though not stunning. And in an area full of overcrowded trails, some forest-centered quiet and privacy is incredibly valuable. This is a great early-season hike to explore when most other hikes in the region are still covered in snow. I was particularly surprised by the lack of other hikers, given the limited availability of April hikes. I visited Lake Serene a couple weeks before on a Wednesday, and it was absolutely packed. I would still avoid going on a weekend, but I found a weekday hike here to be almost completely empty. I arrived at the trailhead at about 11:00 am on a Thursday, and there was one car in the parking lot. I saw four people total on the hike, and there were 2 cars in the lot when I returned to my car. The hike is between 8.5 and 9 miles, with varying levels of difficulty.
The beginning of the trail follows a decommissioned road that is becoming increasingly forested and trail-like. This stretch is flat and easy to follow, with a number of culverts that require crossing some small streams. At the largest crossing, there is a stretch of well-placed rocks accompanied by a wooden handrail, which make an otherwise-challenging crossing pretty easy. There are some picturesque river views along the way, worthy of stopping to take a look.
About 2.5 miles in, the trail reaches the old trailhead and the option to head up to Greider Lakes (left) or Boulder Lake. At this point, the route becomes a real, single-track trail. You will pass the reflection ponds on your left, then quickly begin to ascend the route up to the lakes. The transition from the old road is abrupt, as you go from flat easy trail immediately to switchbacks that carry you up 1000 feet of elevation in about 1.5 miles. It’s encouraging to take a couple stops to look down at Spada Lake and the elevation you have gained. The trail flattens out again after the uphill sprint, and you soon find yourself at Little Greider Lake. An additional .5 miles takes you to Big Greider Lake.
Both lakes are lovely, with a number of appealing campsites right on the water. There aren’t too many great spots to stop for lunch and view the lakes, but certainly a few places to enjoy the view. I prefer Big Greider Lake, and found a spot on one of the many smooth logs to sit and enjoy while I snacked. I happened to visit on an overcast and chilly day, so I stuck around only until my ears and fingers started to get too cold.
I found the descent from the lakes to be a bit taxing. The trail is wet and much of it is covered in slippery rocks and roots, and it took some effort to keep myself from tumbling. Because of this, I found the first part of the return trip to take almost as long as the trip up. Once you get back to the old road, it’s easy going for the rest of the trip.
If you choose to hike here, keep in mind that quieter areas are more likely to be home to bears. I have talked to others who have seen bears in the area, and there were signs at the old trailhead warning of bear activity. It’s always a good idea to be aware of what to do in case you encounter a bear. Bears are very rarely dangerous if you give them their space. I hike alone with Newton in bear country frequently, and will sometimes talk to the dog or sing if the trail is completely empty and there isn’t a lot of visibility.
The absence of other hikers on this trip was a pleasant surprise. I went on a weekday, but I’ve heard from others that even on weekends this hike is much less popular than others in the area. This isn’t my favorite hike in the area as far as views and destination, but I will definitely be back the next time I am craving a quiet hike on a sunny day.
Take US 2 east to from Everett to Sultan. Turn left onto Sultan Basin Road just after milepost 23. And follow it for a little over 13 miles, the last 3 of which are unpaved but in great condition. At that point, stop off at a kiosk to sign in and acknowledge that you will follow the rules of hiking in the area. Make sure you stop here, as you could be cited and fined if you don’t register. After the kiosk, continue following the road, keeping right at the Y onto forest road 61. Another 5 miles on a well-maintained gravel road will take you to the trailhead. You won’t need a forest pass or a discover pass to park here.
Day Hiking Gear
These are some of my favorite gear items for day hiking:
- Day Pack – My Osprey day pack is the perfect size to fit all my snacks and hiking accessories and small enough to be light and unobtrusive, even for someone short like me
- Water Filter – A little bulkier than some other options, my Katadyn filter is still by far my favorite of any that I’ve used
- Sunscreen – Badger is free of toxic chemicals like oxybenzone, instead relying on zinc as a safe physical barrier to protect your skin from sunburn
- Knife – A good knife is an absolute must-have on day hikes and longer backpacking trips
- Whistle – One of the simplest and more important safety tools for hiking
- Water Bottle – I like to have a traditional water bottle and a bladder hydration system to keep in my pack to drink while walking
- Bug Repellent (non-toxic) – For particularly buggy hikes, it’s nice to have some repellent to prevent bites from mosquitos and flies
In addition to being important for nourishment, tasty hiking snacks are so rewarding at the end of a tough hike. For summits, I prefer treats that include chocolate – these are some of my favorites:
- Peanut Butter Cups – Theo makes delicious peanut butter cups that are free of palm oil.
- Mint Coconut Butter Cups – Eating evolved coconut butter cups are a great alternative to peanut butter if you don’t tolerate or prefer not to eat peanuts. Mint is by far my favorite flavor.
- Chocolate Covered Banana Bites – I recently learned that these are made with mis-shapen bananas that were slated for disposal, which makes my love for them even stronger.
- Vegan Chocolate-Covered Peanuts – These candies are an awesome vegan alternative to M&M’s. They taste surprisingly similar and are free of dairy and artificial colors.