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On a sunny day, a dirt trail in the center of the frame leads to a lake surrounded by mountains and trees. On either side of the path are grass and trees.
Sheep Lake.
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8 hikes for swimming and wading in the Cascade Mountains

Top off your hike with a little dip

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Sheep Lake.
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There is nothing quite like the shock to your system that dip in a mountain lake gives. After a long hike in the heat of the day, the chilly waters give a jolt of energy, rewarding you for the effort spent hiking up the hill. The waters are memory erasers, helping weary trekkers forget their tiring journeys while basking in the beauty of the Cascades.

On hot days, the tarns and ponds become an oasis, hidden from view from the towering timbers of our forests. The hike to reach the water leaves us sweating from the humidity and the effort; we question whether this is all worth the effort. After all, we could have just bought a plastic pool and filled it with ice. Yet, we climb on.

Finally, we reach the lake. A light breeze creates ripples across the water, leaving a shimmering reflection of the mountains rising up before us. We take off our shoes, dip our feet in and immediately feel an indescribable bliss. Some of us dive in, immersing our bodies in the pristine waters, reborn through a wilderness baptism. We retreat to sun-drenched rocks to enjoy the warming rays before taking another dip and heading back to the car.

While not all the snowmelt-filled pools and tarns are warm enough to actually swim in, the lakes of the Cascades are the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer’s day. Try these eight hikes for not only a fun adventure, but a memorable day—whether you’re with family, friends, or just yourself.

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1. Silver Falls and Blue Hole

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Swimming, cliff jumping, and awesome hiking await those who head to Mount Rainier’s Silver Falls Trail and the Blue Hole swimming area near the La Wis Wis Campground. Two hours from downtown Seattle, the drive is worth every minute. To reach the Blue Hole, all you need to do is walk a short distance from the La Wis Wis campground. Be ready for glacial-fed water, a shady, gravel “beach,” and incredible swimming. While enjoying the water is all you may want to do, consider making a day out of it and exploring the easy and gorgeous Silver Falls Loop Trail

2. Ira Spring Trail and Mason Lake

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A short 48 mile drive on I-90 will get you to a classic hike and lake in the Snoqualmie region of the Cascades. Known as the Ira Springs Trail, named after lifelong nature photographer and conservationist Ira Spring, this steep trail is worth the effort for both the views, wildflowers and the chance to dip in Mason Lake. At 6.5 miles round trip and gaining 2,400 feet of elevation, this is a tough hike for many. Once you get to the top of the trail, head down to Mason Lake to cool off and relax before the hike back down the trail. Be aware that mosquitoes can be quite bad at the lake.  

3. Sourdough Gap and Sheep Lake

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Offering picture perfect views of the mountain and the greater Mount Rainier region, Sourdough Gap and Sheep Lake is a classic. Sheep Lake, found 90 miles from Seattle, isn’t for swimming, as it isn’t that deep, but on a hot day it is great place to wade and cool your feet after the hike. This hike is six miles round trip with just a little over 1,000 feet of elevation gain—not too far and not too steep. The water here won’t be frigid in the late summer months, letting you enjoy it a little longer than some of the other lakes in the region. 

4. Lake Serene

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Located off of Highway 2, Lake Serene is a classic spot to take a dip and bask in the glory of the Cascade Mountains. The drive to get to the lake is the easy part—it’s just 54 miles from Seattle. The trailhead is quite popular, so finding parking will be a challenge in the later morning hours. The hike to reach the lake is 8.2 miles round trip and gains 2,000 feet in elevation, making it a challenge for non-hikers. A slow and steady pace will give you great rewards, though. Around the popular swimming lake is a great view of craggy rocks and mountains, cementing it as an essential swimming destination on hot days. 

5. Mirror Lake

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Often overlooked, Mirror Lake is a 70 mile drive and a short hike away from Seattle. After around three miles of hiking on a trail that relatively flat compared to most trails around Snoqualmie, Mirror Lake offers good wading and swimming. This large lake is a nice escape from the crowded lake trails found right along the Interstate. More adventurous hikers can scramble up the nearby ridges for impressive views before taking a dip in the refreshing waters. 

6. Boardman Lake

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Found along the iconic Mountain Loop Highway, Boardman Lake is an easy-to-reach, family-friendly swimming spot. Located along a two-mile long roundtrip trail, the lake is huge, giving numerous spots to wade, float or swim. While the area, just 64 miles from downtown Seattle, can get pretty popular on the weekends, the lake is just far enough away from the city to hold off really massive crowds. Be aware that the lake here is very cold most of the summer and that the mosquitoes can be bad. Don’t let that stop your adventure though, as this is a fantastic swimming spot. 

7. Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake

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Also found along the scenic Mountain Loop Highway, this destination found 74 miles from town is for those looking for something truly rugged and wild. The hike to reach Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake isn’t easy, nor should it be attempted by novice hikers. Those who do sweat up to this incredible basin are rewarded with jaw-dropping views and an incredible lake for wading or swimming. The hike is 9.2 miles round trip and gains nearly 3,000 feet of elevation, but again, the basin is completely worth the effort for moderate to advanced hikers. A dip in the waters here is second-to-none and will quickly become one of your favorite hikes in the state.

8. Annette Lake

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Right off on I-90 and just 48 miles from downtown, the trail to Annette Lake presents an opportunity for a great hike and fun dip in the cold waters of Snoqualmie Pass. Reached along a 7.5 mile round trip trail that gains 1,800 feet, the lake is a perfect place to cool off on the hot days of summer. The hike to the water thins the crowds a bit, giving you a small slice of solitude when exploring this clear, pristine lake. On the way, you’ll hike through cool forests, past babbling brooks, and on wildflower-lined trails. The lake itself isn’t ideal for swimming, but wading in these waters is a great reward for the miles you just walked. 

1. Silver Falls and Blue Hole

Silver Falls, Washington 98361

Swimming, cliff jumping, and awesome hiking await those who head to Mount Rainier’s Silver Falls Trail and the Blue Hole swimming area near the La Wis Wis Campground. Two hours from downtown Seattle, the drive is worth every minute. To reach the Blue Hole, all you need to do is walk a short distance from the La Wis Wis campground. Be ready for glacial-fed water, a shady, gravel “beach,” and incredible swimming. While enjoying the water is all you may want to do, consider making a day out of it and exploring the easy and gorgeous Silver Falls Loop Trail

2. Ira Spring Trail and Mason Lake

Mason Lake, Washington 98045

A short 48 mile drive on I-90 will get you to a classic hike and lake in the Snoqualmie region of the Cascades. Known as the Ira Springs Trail, named after lifelong nature photographer and conservationist Ira Spring, this steep trail is worth the effort for both the views, wildflowers and the chance to dip in Mason Lake. At 6.5 miles round trip and gaining 2,400 feet of elevation, this is a tough hike for many. Once you get to the top of the trail, head down to Mason Lake to cool off and relax before the hike back down the trail. Be aware that mosquitoes can be quite bad at the lake.  

3. Sourdough Gap and Sheep Lake

Naches, WA 98937

Offering picture perfect views of the mountain and the greater Mount Rainier region, Sourdough Gap and Sheep Lake is a classic. Sheep Lake, found 90 miles from Seattle, isn’t for swimming, as it isn’t that deep, but on a hot day it is great place to wade and cool your feet after the hike. This hike is six miles round trip with just a little over 1,000 feet of elevation gain—not too far and not too steep. The water here won’t be frigid in the late summer months, letting you enjoy it a little longer than some of the other lakes in the region. 

4. Lake Serene

Lake Serene, Washington 98251

Located off of Highway 2, Lake Serene is a classic spot to take a dip and bask in the glory of the Cascade Mountains. The drive to get to the lake is the easy part—it’s just 54 miles from Seattle. The trailhead is quite popular, so finding parking will be a challenge in the later morning hours. The hike to reach the lake is 8.2 miles round trip and gains 2,000 feet in elevation, making it a challenge for non-hikers. A slow and steady pace will give you great rewards, though. Around the popular swimming lake is a great view of craggy rocks and mountains, cementing it as an essential swimming destination on hot days. 

5. Mirror Lake

Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

Often overlooked, Mirror Lake is a 70 mile drive and a short hike away from Seattle. After around three miles of hiking on a trail that relatively flat compared to most trails around Snoqualmie, Mirror Lake offers good wading and swimming. This large lake is a nice escape from the crowded lake trails found right along the Interstate. More adventurous hikers can scramble up the nearby ridges for impressive views before taking a dip in the refreshing waters. 

6. Boardman Lake

Boardman Lake, Washington 98252

Found along the iconic Mountain Loop Highway, Boardman Lake is an easy-to-reach, family-friendly swimming spot. Located along a two-mile long roundtrip trail, the lake is huge, giving numerous spots to wade, float or swim. While the area, just 64 miles from downtown Seattle, can get pretty popular on the weekends, the lake is just far enough away from the city to hold off really massive crowds. Be aware that the lake here is very cold most of the summer and that the mosquitoes can be bad. Don’t let that stop your adventure though, as this is a fantastic swimming spot. 

7. Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake

Foggy Lake, Washington

Also found along the scenic Mountain Loop Highway, this destination found 74 miles from town is for those looking for something truly rugged and wild. The hike to reach Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake isn’t easy, nor should it be attempted by novice hikers. Those who do sweat up to this incredible basin are rewarded with jaw-dropping views and an incredible lake for wading or swimming. The hike is 9.2 miles round trip and gains nearly 3,000 feet of elevation, but again, the basin is completely worth the effort for moderate to advanced hikers. A dip in the waters here is second-to-none and will quickly become one of your favorite hikes in the state.

8. Annette Lake

North Bend, WA 98045

Right off on I-90 and just 48 miles from downtown, the trail to Annette Lake presents an opportunity for a great hike and fun dip in the cold waters of Snoqualmie Pass. Reached along a 7.5 mile round trip trail that gains 1,800 feet, the lake is a perfect place to cool off on the hot days of summer. The hike to the water thins the crowds a bit, giving you a small slice of solitude when exploring this clear, pristine lake. On the way, you’ll hike through cool forests, past babbling brooks, and on wildflower-lined trails. The lake itself isn’t ideal for swimming, but wading in these waters is a great reward for the miles you just walked.