TANK LAKES Winter Overnight
Route: Necklace Valley (trail, snowshoe)

TR #: 81

Category: Washington (HWY 2)       Elev: ~5,800 ft      

Partner: Dave Chase

The long snow slog was well worth the unique wintery views and the spectacular sunrise the following morning. I wonder how many people get up here in the winter?

(Aug 2006)
(Oct 2009) (Link to trip report from an autumn overnight at Tank Lakes.)
(Feb 2010) (This trip report.)


The Route
Topo map of approach via Necklace Valley.
(Click on images to enlarge)

The Lakes:
Tank Lakes are located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. These lakes rest on a rocky alpine flat with perennial snowfields and scattered evergreens, with stunning views of Summit Chief, Chimney Rock, and Overcoat Peak across the valley.

Route options:
There is no maintained trail to Tank Lakes, but the lakes can be reached via easy cross-country from a few different directions. This area is often passed by parties doing variations of the (1) Alpine Lakes High Route, in which case the approach typically starts on the Lake Dorothy Trail off the Miller River Road off HWY 2 and comes up to Tank Lakes after Chetwood Lake and Iron Cap Pass. Two popular one-day approaches are (2) via Necklace Valley on the East Fork Foss River Trail off the Foss River Road from HWY 2 and (3) via the Dutch Miller Trail off the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road from I-90.

Necklace Valley Approach:
I have always approached Tank Lakes via Necklace Valley, as we did in this particular trip. The trailhead (1660 ft) is easily accessed from HWY 2 near Skykomish at about 4.5 miles up Foss River Road. The East Fork Foss River Trail takes you 8.3 miles and 3100 ft to the head of Necklace Valley. From there, Tank Lakes can be accessed via about 1 mile and 1000 ft of cross-country hiking.

Photo Trip Report

The Approach
(Click on images to enlarge)
Usually, the 10 mile approach to Tank Lakes would not be feasible as a one-night trip in the winter, unless you like slogging miles of snow-obscured trail. However, with the unusually low amount of snow accumulation in 2010, the approach was quite doable, but a good workout nonetheless.

We hit snow on the trail around 3200 ft, unusually high for Feb.

The last water we encountered was at Jade Lake at the toe of Necklace Valley. Guess we didn't each need to be hauling 4L (we both drink a lot) over the previous 7 miles...

The old shelter in Necklace Valley at 7.4 miles. You could stay here, but the views aren't great.

To get to Tank Lakes, we snowshoed up a ridgeline heading southwest out of the head of Necklace Valley. Necklace Valley is below.

Almost there. And note the cairn still uncovered (in Feb!?).

A big slab avalanche occurred at the head of Necklace Valley on the day we hiked in. The approach to Tank Lakes avoids avalanche-prone slopes if you stay high on the ridge the whole time.

It snowed a little.

Our camp above Tank Lakes. We had to wait until the next morning for views, but it was worth it (scroll below for the photos)!

A Spectacular Morning at Tank Lakes
(Click on images to enlarge)
I've never seen such spectacular morning colors. Within a couple of hours, the lighting had changed dramatically about every 25 minutes. A sequence of shots from dawn to early morning is given below.

5:56am (dawn)

6:12am (dawn)

6:49am (just at sunrise)

6:56am (just after sunrise)


Another North "Cascad-agonia" range. (The 7:07am shot.)




Labeled Panorama of the Alpine Wilderness view from Tank Lakes.

Wandering Around Tank Lakes
(Click on images to enlarge)
Before heading out, we enjoyed wandering around the Tank Lakes plateau for awhile. It is snowshoer's paradise in the winter, at least for the few who ever get here in the winter.

A beautiful place to snowshoe (or ski). Classic altostratus clouds. See my cloud page for more photos and descriptions of clouds!

Either a really big glove or a really small tree.

A view across one of the snowy Tank Lakes.

Cool cirrostratus and cirrocumulus clouds. See my cloud page for more photos and descriptions of clouds!

Edge of a well around a boulder.

Rime on tree.

Slogging Back to the Car
(Click on images to enlarge)
A few more photos from the hike out.

Watch out for the "streambed crevasses"!

Shadows of the trees on the clouds. See my cloud page for more photos and descriptions of clouds!

A cool radial pattern on a log cross-section on the trail.

How to snowshoe in the Winter of 2010.