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TR: Eagle Lake Backdoor

Posted by gck Sunday, August 3, 2014

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

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Left: tree fungus
Right: fireweed

I couldn’t hike until the afternoon today, so I decided to try one of the shorter hikes that I normally don’t consider. I was originally going to do Barclay Lake, but I decided to save it for when I’m hiking with someone who wants an easy hike, so I decided instead to do the alternate route to Eagle Lake. The traditional route is supposed to be a painful upwards slog from Barclay, but the alternate route starts from a high trailhead, so it’s short and has little elevation gain. WTA refers to it as a fisherman’s trail, but the trail is in good shape and has gotten a bit of maintenance (cutting steps in blowdowns, etc.) so I think it’s more of a “backdoor” than a fisherman’s trail.

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Cliffy FR 6514

To get to the high trailhead, your car has to do the work for you. You turn off of Highway 2 onto Beckler River Road, a nice paved road, but soon, you turn onto another forest road and it gets interesting from there. Most of the ~6.5 mile forest road drive is on FR 6514, a rocky, cliffy, narrow road that gains quite a bit of elevation. Pretty rough on my Camry, but I made it. I’m not sure what I’d do if I encountered a car coming in the opposite direction because there are plenty of areas on the road where there isn’t room for two cars, and backing up doesn’t sound like fun, either. I didn’t see any cars on my way up, but I did see two dirt bikes coming down when I was on one of those “is my car going to make it?!” sections and that did not make me feel better about my chances! The forest road drive took me almost an hour, making it about a 2 hour drive each way. A beefier car would be able to go up faster. The views from the road were really beautiful, though, and I saw a camper vehicle parked in a turnout area with the intent to stay the night.

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Left: garter snake eating something?
Right: Mount Townsend and Paradise Meadow

The forest part of the trail (which is most of it) isn’t very interesting, but it also isn’t very hard and you can get through it quickly. I was startled by a garter snake early on and chose to go around it instead of over it on the trail. After about two miles, the trail enters Paradise Meadow, or as another trip report writer called it, Paradise Mudow. It’s scenic, with views of Mount Townsend and Merchant Peak, but there are all these muddy areas that are hard to avoid and hard to pass through. I was happy for my boots because my running shoes would have been swallowed up by one of those mud puddles for sure. The trail splits, one way going to Stone Lake and the other to Eagle Lake.

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Left: Merchant Peak
Right: Merchant Peak above Eagle Lake

Despite the 100% sunny forecast, it had been raining when I started driving to the hike, and I had been listening to thunder for awhile. Light rain started coming down, and I didn’t want to chance driving down the fun forest road in a downpour, so I didn’t spend much time at the lake before rushing back. Turns out I could have stayed longer, but it’s better to minimize risk when hiking alone. :) There was a group of adults and kids camped out at the main campsite and a guy in a raft fishing in the lake.


The lake was very pretty, especially for how easy the hike was, and it would be even prettier on a sunny day. While the 2 hours of hiking wasn’t really worth the 4 hours of driving, I’d like to come back on a better day and do more exploration. There’s an old cabin on the side of the lake, the side trip to Stone Lake, and a possible scramble up Mount Townsend for even better views.



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