After setting eyes on Rachel Lake for the first time, you'll have to agree: whoever Rachel was, she must have been a real beauty. It's true. This lake is a sparkling sight to behold, and although you'll brave crowds and work hard in the last mile to stand at her shores, it's well worth the effort.
From the signed trailhead, the route briefly heads east before turning to the northwest to follow Box Canyon Creek. With the creek as your soundtrack, you'll be hiking a nearly flat path through interspersed fir, pine, thick brush, and occasional patches of soggy terrain for the first couple miles. During this early going, the trail opens up on occasion to reveal Box Ridge and Hibox Peak to the north.
At a clearing at just over 2.0 miles, the trail splits. Head left to stay on route, continuing to follow the creek. At 2.5 miles, cross carefully over logs and boulders to the west side of Box Canyon Creek. From here on out, it's all uphill, and we're not kidding. Muscle your way up on a rough trail of rocks and roots to a waterfall at 3.0 miles. This is a great photo opportunity and a chance to rest before pressing on. The final half-mile continuing to test your legs, but offers plenty of distractions as the trail emerges out of the canopy and bestows you with gorgeous views of Hibox Peak in the distance.
As you near the lake, the trail turns to a network of smaller paths that lead to overlooks, swimming beaches, and campsites. If you don't deviate, the main path puts you on the northeast end of the lake, which offers a great spot to take in the views and enjoy Rachel Lake's beautiful blue waters. Take a dip if you dare, continue onward and upward to other adventures, or pitch a tent and stay awhile. This is good country.
Permits & Tips
Northwest Forest Pass required. Toilet available at trailhead. The last mile up to Rachel Lake is steep and rugged, consider bringing trekking poles to help with balance. Stay on trail to avoid further damaging the ecosystem around the lake. There are several campsites at the lake. No campfires allowed within 0.25 miles of the lake. This lake is also the jumping off point for several other adventures, such as Alta Mountain and nearby Lila and Rampart Lakes, all well-worth of checking out.
How to get there
From Seattle, head east on I-90 to exit 62 for Kachess Lake Rd
Turn left at the end of the off-ramp onto Kachess Lake Road and follow for 5.2 miles as it turns to gravel and becomes Forest Road 49 heading north to Kachess Lake Campground.
Turn left at 5.2 miles at the T in the road (signed for 1313, in the opposite direction as Kachess Lake Campground).
Less than a half-mile further, veer right at the signed junction to head up to Rachel Lake, and reach the parking loop 3.5 miles up the road.