It’s the peak of summer—all those spring and early summer hikes prepared you for the main season of hiking. This month, try Denny Creek to Melakwa Lakes for a hike that takes you from beginner hiker to alpine expert in just under nine miles round trip.
The first part of the hike is flat and easy—and probably familiar. Leaving from the shared trailhead to Denny Creek and Franklin Falls (off I-90’s exit 47), head toward Denny Creek, on a wide, well-traveled path through lush forest. Soon you’ll pass under the high elevated roadway of I-90, though you might miss it if you don’t look up. At an easy pace, you’ll come to the famous Denny Creek Waterslide area in about 30 minutes (1 mile). It’s popular on hot days with everyone, especially toddlers and teens. Many folks have made this part of the trek in flip-flops, just to cool off in the waters of Denny Creek in one of the many natural “water slides” or shallow rock areas that have been smoothed by eons of water flow. But we suggest saving your cooling off for the way back—for now, hop across the creek on stones that make an easy path. One of the reasons this is a great summer hike is because crossing the creek is easy—in early spring, the water is too high to do it with dry feet.
Once across the creek, the trail to Melakwa Lakes begins in earnest, and you’ll start to climb. You’ll hug the creek for a while, with lovely views. You’ll continue through the forest until the landscape changes to a talus slope, and you’ll switchback up, until Keekwulee Falls comes into view. The Instagram-worthy falls cascade more than 90 feet into the ravine below. (The trail does hug the ravine close at times—keep dogs on leash and kids within reach). The trail continues through varying landscapes, rocky slopes, waist-high vegetation and deep forests. You’ll get some great views of the valley behind you as you get higher up—it’s particularly satisfying to see where you’ve been.
Almost four miles from the trailhead, you’ll hit your peak elevation of 4600 feet at Hemlock Pass—from there, it’s less than a half mile downhill to the first of the two Melakwa Lakes, which are gorgeous pools reflecting the tall jagged peaks above them. (The second lake is just 0.2 miles up the trail, and they are connected by a small stream). There are many picture-perfect places for a picnic lunch along both of the small lakes. Bring your bug spray“Melakwa” is Chinook for mosquito—and enjoy the views. On the way back, stop at the Denny Creek Waterslide for a quick dip before heading back to your car.