Distance: 6.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain: about 700 feet
Location: Indian Heaven Wilderness, Southwest Washington
Beginning at the Thomas Lake trailhead, we hiked in to Blue Lake for a one night backpacking trip. The drive from Portland is about two hours, and while the last 12 miles is gravel, the road is in good shape. The parking lot trailhead fills up fast on nice weekends, so it’s best to arrive early, or better yet, during the week. Camping is only allowed in designated campsites in the areas surrounding Thomas Lake and Blue Lake. For about the first mile, the trail is through the forest, climbing steeply only a few times. Thomas, Dee and Heather Lakes are a half-mile in.
The first meadows begin to appear, and when the trail levels out, it goes through many small and then larger meadows. During September, and in some years, the beginning of October, the meadows are full of brilliant fall color. The trail descends for the last half mile approaching Blue Lake, passing several additional lakes along the way. Just before Blue Lake, Sahale Tyee Lake appears on the left. Just ahead, look through the trees for views of Blue Lake. The trail soon is beside the lake, with great views of Gifford Peak and the appropriately named Blue Lake.
We stayed at a designated campsite just above Blue Lake. A short but steep side trail leads to the private campsite. A smaller lake that is hidden from the trail is nearby, making for a nice spot to relax in a quiet and secluded spot.
The next morning, fog had settled in and changed the way everything around us looked. On the hike out, the fog gave the meadows an ethereal feel.