Minotaur Lake is a short, steep hike with big payoff

Want to get out for a hike and work up a sweat, but don’t have a lot of time? Have I got the hike for you.

I tested out Minotaur Lake off U.S. 2 this weekend. I’m really surprised I’d never heard of this hike before.

The trailhead is about 90 minutes from Everett and the hike is only 3.5 miles long. So, you can get an early start and be back home in plenty of time for an early dinner.

Don’t let the length of the trail fool you, though. This is a short trek, but it’s not easy.

From the trailhead, the trail immediately starts up. It’s a bit faint at the very start, but just head straight uphill. It will quickly become easy to follow as it climbs. There are very few switchbacks here. This trail just goes straight uphill. Right now, the ground is dry and the trail is a bit crumbly in a few spots. You will also have to navigate a few trees across the path. None of them present a major obstacle.

The trail will climb about 1,000 feet in less than a mile. That first mile is a boring hike. But don’t despair. It’s worth it. After about a mile, the trail levels off a bit and you wander through meadows of huckleberry. The berries we could find were delicious.

After 1.75 miles — it feels like longer, my guidebook promised, and it really does — you’ll reach the lake. The lake is set in a gorgeous bowl and you’ll find a number of excellent flat rocks to eat lunch on. I think the best lunch spots are on the west side of the lake (keep left as you reach it.)

The guidebook said to expect company, but we ate a leisurely lunch without seeing another soul. We eventually saw two other groups of hikers, but it certainly wasn’t crowded up there.

We took the chance to jump in for a quick swim after lunch. An osprey circled overhead while we swam.

Before you leave, be sure to check out the other side of the lake. A very short climb will give you an excellent view down to Theseus Lake.

The trip down will be faster than the way up, but your knees might complain a little. Go slow on some of the looser sections of trail; they can get slippery.

Directions

Follow U.S. 2 east four miles past the summit at Stevens Pass. When the highway divides, turn left immediately onto Smith Brook Road. This will put you on Forest Road 6700. Keep on this road. At about 5 miles, you will reach a fork on the road. Keep left at the fork, following the sign pointing toward Lake Wenatchee. At a total of 6.8 miles after leaving U.S. 2, turn left on Forest Road 6704. The road dead-ends at the trailhead after about a mile. You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass for parking.

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