Memoirs of a Pilgrim


Pete Lake

October 20th 2020

This is a great choose-your-own-adventure trail, where you can hike an easy 4 miles in and set up camp on the lake. Once there, you can hangout, have a campfire, fish and enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains over the lake. You can also take advantage of the network of trails that branch off from this one.


This is a prime spot in summer, where it typically gets very busy. But it should not be missed during shoulder seasons. It’s low elevation (3000ft high point) means that it will be warmer than most trails that gain a lot of elevation (typically 5,000-6000ft high point). It was that reason I chose this trail. Lots of rain and cold weather coming in meant most trails would be getting hit with snow, but this one was low enough where it’d be raining for most of my stay.


The two-hour drive from Seattle will start off on I-90 and have you turn off the highway short before Cle Elum. You’ll drive through Roslyn, which has one of the best small town main drags that is great to wander around. Short after, you’ll drive through Ronald, which is a huge hub for snowmobilers in winter. Then, you’ll drive along Cle Elum lake before turning left, across the little Salmon Le Sac River.

This is where you’ll hit the forest road, with the typical forest road conditions of potholes and large pools of sitting water. It’s not the worst I’ve been on, but having a high clearance vehicle helped. Sedans will have more trouble, but should still be able to pass with careful navigation.

The parking lot is moderately sized, but I can see it filling up really quickly on a nice Summer weekend.



The trailhead had some good information around camping rules, how to handle passing horses and what pass you should have (NW Forest pass or America the Beautiful). There isn’t a map, so make sure you have one preloaded on your phone (I use AllTrails).

Overall, the trail is pretty true to it’s rating of being easy. It’s pretty flat and the most work you’ll have to do is with the water crossings. Most you can skip across rocks, but there are two that will have you crossing large logs. The only way I could get over those was to crawl all fours. In my defense, I had a lot of weight on my back!

As you approach the lake, there is a very large area meant for camping. There are several fire pits and access to the water. Somehow I completely missed this on the hike in (which is strange since it’s very obvious), but went down a path a little further away and came across a much more secluded campsite on the lake that had a fire pit, flat spot perfect for a tent, and trees perfect for hanging up a hammock! I lucked out for sure!


I knew my entire trip was likely going to be rainy, with a slight chance of snow. Even with the slight drizzle I had on the first day, it really was the most perfect camping trip. I can totally understand this spot getting very popular during summer. Even with the cold temps, I was so tempted to jump into the lake!

Spoiler, I didn’t. Instead, I gathered fallen branches for firewood and made myself a lovely fire. Then read. Then ate. Then cozied up in my tent, with my fabulous new twinkle lights. And continued to read some more.

Even with plenty of dry items that caught on fire easily, the damp conditions made it really difficult to actually have the fire catch. So I sacrificed a few sheets of my watercolor paper, and that worked like a charm.

The lows of the evening dipped into the 30’s, but I managed to stay warm and cozy throughout the night. Boiling water and putting in a nalgene is my new trick for staying warm during colder overnights, and it’s been working like a charm!


It rained throughout the night and remained overcast and wet into the morning. So no sunrise for me this time. That meant more time to stay curled up in the tent. Once it got lighter out, I strung up the hammock again and sat in it with my sleeping bag and coffee, and read in the rain. I figured I’d be getting wet eventually anyway, so why not start it off in the most relaxing way I could think of!

I hung out longer at the campsite than I was expecting, especially with the weather not being the greatest. Around 10, I started packing up and headed out. The hike out was going as expected, until it started to snow.

At first the snowflakes were exciting and not too big. But then they started to get bigger, wetter and started to fall more rapidly. As more fell, more stuck. It was gorgeous to look at, but a mess to hike in. The snowflakes would catch on my eyelashes and melt into my eyes. The ones that didn’t go in my eyes got all over and melted instantly, making me sopping wet by the time I made it to my car.

Fortunately I had a dry set of clothes in my car, so I changed in the pit toilet. As I got back to my car, the snow had completely stopped. Go figure. At least the drive back was full of the most stunning views, where there were all the peaks that had a fresh layer of snow that were overlooking the fall colors still snow-free below. I wish I could have gotten photos of it, but that wasn’t going to happen with me driving.



I typically don’t do easier hikes like this, but this lake gave an incredible view for not a whole lot of effort! It was such a perfect, cozy spot to enjoy the cool temps and rain of autumn. And then wrapping up with a taste of the incoming winter! Definitely recommend this as a perfect beginner backpacking trip.

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dogs trail ember trail trail dog on log log bridge log crossing water crossing tent pete lake fire dusk fall colors snow snowflakes snowy trail