If the mere thought of hiking in 90+ degree temperatures makes you sweat, you’re not alone in the PNW. Luckily, the Cascades are filled with hundreds of refreshing (i.e., cold) lakes that make great destinations on warm-weather days. So bring a swimsuit, pack a picnic, and enjoy one of our region’s best summer treats. (And, of course, remember to carry plenty of water, follow Leave No Trace principles and swim/float/paddle responsibly.)
Rachel Lake: Rachel Lake is all about options. Looking for a straightforward trail with enough elevation gain to work up a sweat? Great! Want to wander farther, and possibly stay the night? Turn right at the main lake and climb about 500 feet more to arrive at a junction that accesses Lila Lake, Rampart Lakes and Rampart Ridge.
Twin Sisters Lake: A scant 2 miles of hiking and 800 feet of elevation gain is all it takes to get to these large subalpine lakes near Chinook Pass. You’ll find easy water access and several places to pitch a tent.
Ross Lake: Hike anywhere from 3 to 30 miles along the crystal blue waters of Ross Lake, with plenty of swimming and camping options along the way. Not into sleeping on the ground? A stay in one of Ross Lake Resort’s floating cabins lets you get away from it all without having to rough it, but you’ll have to plan ahead.
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Rattlesnake Lake: Have only a couple hours to spare? Rattlesnake Lake, once the site of an early 20th-century railroad town, is about as close-in as it gets for wilderness swimming and floating. If you prefer to earn your refreshment, huff it up the towering ledge of the same name before taking the plunge.
Looking for more ideas? Check out a similar roundup from 2013.