Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Top choice in Central Washington

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a spectacular 614-sq-mile protected area of rough, crenellated mountains, glacier-gouged valleys, and – as the name implies – gorgeous sapphire lakes (more than 700 of them, in fact). It's possible to day-hike in several parts of the wilderness, but to really get a feel for it you need to backpack in for a night or two – which requires applying for one of the highly sought-after backpacking permits in advance via lottery, online at; applications open mid-March.

For day hiking, pick up a self-issued wilderness permit at the trailhead. Good entry points are from Icicle Rd (USFS Rd 7600) off US 2 and on a dirt road just north of Tumwater campground on US 2.

The Icicle Gorge Trail is the most accessible hike here, an easy 3.6-mile river loop that gives you an enticing taste of what this pristine wilderness is all about. Other trailheads dot Icicle Rd and lead off into a network of popular trails. Pick up a leaflet at Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center.

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