Mike and I hiked up to Heather Lake this morning. We arrived early, meeting in Smokey Point at 7 AM, but three cars beat us to the trailhead. People are getting out there. We watched five cars come into the lot, in a line, when we returned. Heather Lake is not a secret. I came away thinking this might be a really good one to snowshoe in February or March, as it is not too steep, the distance is moderate for snowshoeing, and the destination is gorgeous.
I have done this hike before--I recognized certain turns of the trail--but it's probably been 15 years, as I can't recall further details. The age goonies got my memory.
The trailhead is on the Mt. Pilchuk road, which is one mile past the Verlot Ranger Station on the Mountain Loop Highway. The trip was less than 100 miles roundtrip from my doorstep. The hike itself turned out to be shorter than I thought too--2 miles in and out, with climbing, but nothing too steep. So, an easy day.
As the pictures show here, the lake is still frozen, but the melt is on. We didn't hit serious snow until about 3/4 of the way in, and it was all easily navigable, though we made one brief wrong turn. There is a lot of water on the trail going up, with a couple minor stream crossings. We were not punching through the snow all that much.
Upon return, Mike and I discussed the possibility of connecting Lake Twenty-Two and Heather Lake, by breaking a bit of trail, as it were.
Heather Lake is beautiful in its frozen state. We heard, then saw one minor avalanche, up high. We also hiked over avalanche debris, and studied the ice melt holes, but chose not to circle the whole lake. Snowshoes would be helpful for that. Some odd sort of flea filled our snowy footprints. There is old growth on the way up, though not as much as on the Lake Twenty-Two trail.