Scenic USA - Washington

Snow Lake

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Snow Lake - Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

Photo by Eric Noel
Eric's Alpine Lakes Gallery

   This picturesque view of Snow Lake suggests why this southwest section of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is so popular. Just about an hour away from Washington State's largest metropolitan area, Alpine Lakes attracts over 150,000 visitors every year. The land, rescued from mining and lumber operations, is reportedly being overused by crowds of uninformed wilderness visitors. With easy access from I-90, it's easy to understand the need for permit requirements.
   Alpine Lakes Wilderness was created in 1976, naturally receiving its name from nearly 700 liquid sapphire gems. Totaling nearly 400,000 acres, this section of the Cascade Range was heavily influenced by plate tectonics and glaciations. During the late Eocene epoch the Kula Plate decayed and the Farallon Plate (now called the Juan de Fuca Plate) began its subduction process beneath the continent. The unsuccessful subduction created two great folds in the earth's crust, namely the Olympic and Cascade ranges. Today, this heavily forested land falls under control of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee national forests. The preserve's western forests, a sea of Washington's signature evergreens, include cedar, western hemlock and Douglas fir. On the drier slopes of the east, spruce, larch, ponderosa and lodgepole pine cover all but the tallest peaks with green. Some 600 miles of trails are woven into the wilderness, with 40 trailheads along U.S. Route 12 and I-90. Visitors are asked to stay on established trails and leave only footprints.

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