Parking lot was filling by 9:30am. Trail is in good condition with a few mud...
A pair of small alpine lakes tucked away at the top of a lush valley and surrounded by imposing mountain peaks, Melakwa Lake is a fantastic hike or trail run within striking distance of Seattle.
The hike begins at the popular Denny Creek trailhead, a family-friendly trail that crosses Denny Creek on a wooden bridge, passes beneath I-90 westbound, and enters the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area before arriving at a natural waterslide in the bed of the creek at 1.35 miles.
It's here you'll leave most of the crowds behind and begin an uphill climb to the top of Hemlock Pass. Take the stairs down to the river and cross Denny Creek near the waterslide area. There's no bridge, so use caution and prepare to get your feet wet.
Pick up the trail on the other side of the creek and begin switchbacking up the valley through alternating dirt and talus, enjoying views of Keekwulee Falls at 1.5 miles and Snowshoe Falls at 2.0 miles. The going gets steeper for the last mile before reaching Hemlock Pass at 3.5 miles (elev. 4,675 ft).
From here the trail drops a bit in elevation as you make your way another mile northward. Stay right at the signed junction (left will take you to Lower Tuscotachie Lake) and arrive at Melakwa Lake at 4.5 miles (elev. 4,500 ft.). There's a nice spot to take a breather and soak up the views on the west side of the lake. Looking up valley, Chair Peak is on your right and Kaleetan Peak is on your left.
For those who want to see more, take the trail along the west side of the lake another tenth of a mile to the smaller Upper Melakwa Lake.
Permits & Tips
Northwest Forest Pass required. Toilet at trailhead. No water. Dogs allowed on leash. Oh, and Melakwa means mosquito – bring bugspray during the snowmelt months.
How to get there
Head east on I-90 to exit 47, (Denny Creek/Asahel Curtis).
Turn left at the end of the ramp and cross back over the freeway to the T in the road.
Turn right (east) at the T, and drive 0.3 mile (back under the freeway) to clearly signed Denny Creek Road/SR 5800.
Turn left onto Denny Creek Road and drive for 2.3 miles (passing the campground on your left).
Turn left onto FS 5830 and drive 0.25 mile to the parking loop at the end of the road.