Neek's Chikamin TR piqued my interest in revisiting the Kendall Peak Lakes logging road. In 2003 we climbed Chikamin looping in via Rocky Run and out via the Kendall "back door" (a spur road that came within 400' or so vertical of the PCT). A year later the Kendall Peak Lakes road was barricaded 1/4 mile from Gold Creek. I remember the road being in good shape back in 2003 so was curious what kind of toll 15+ years had taken.
I've never been up to the lakes but they must be getting more popular as I found 2 other cars parked mid-week. The road was bikeable although steep and rocky in spots so I biked in lowest gear most of the way up. Around 3700' I hit a spot where things got brushy. After getting past this section I realized this was where the old spur road used to be. I back tracked and found the spur. It was overgrown so I stashed the bike to investigate. Walking was tedious and brushy and I regretted not putting on long pants. The road washed out at Coal Creek (more likely was decommissioned) and it was a steep but short scramble to get across. I went a little further and scrambled over another washed out creek crossing. Definitely not carrying a bike through either of those sections! The road ahead looked unappealingly steep and hot so I decided to turn around at this point.
Wildflowers at first switchback
One of the more pleasant sections of road
First signs of fall
Old PCT back door
Snoqualmie Pass Ski Area
Coal Creek Washout
Not very bikeable!
A semi-pleasant section of the decommissioned road
I retreated to my bike and continued up the road to the next switchback where I think an alternate backdoor used to exist. There was a boot path branching left but upon investigation it disappeared after scrambling over Coal Creek where things got brushy fast and swallowed by vine maple. I am guessing one could still access the PCT from the lakes. If I ever get up that way I may investigate, but can't imagine it being a very appealing way to access the PCT, even with a pedal assisted bike.
Switchback where I stopped
Boopath to vine maple
RIP back door
Brushing along road
Brushing along road (probably more helpful in winter)
Snoqualmie Pass from Road
Experimenting with simulated bokeh on my Pixel 3
Out of curiosity I pulled up the old aerial imagery of the area. Looks like they decommissioned the spur road(s) after 2006. For reference, the PCT is indicated by the green line to the upper left.
Decided to explore more on Saturday. Left the parking area around 12:45 PM and made quick work up the road reaching my previous turnaround point within a half hour.
2 other vehicles
Old PCT shortcut to upper left RIP
After pushing the bike thru some overgrowth and bypassing a washout things started to open up again for easy riding. I biked the remaining way other than to push the bike thru a large downed tree (thanks to whoever cut a wide enough swath). Passed a few people coming down including a couple who had biked up. Reached the obvious boot path to the lakes by 2 PM and stashed the bike.
Road washing away
Zooming in 25x to Snoqualmie Pass
Zooming in to old PCT shortcut RIP
Upper section of road
Old PCT shortcut RIP
Bootpath to lakes
Within 10 minutes reached the first lake which is quite marshy but photogenic. Pushed on and traversed above the middle lake until I stumbled on the steep boot path heading up to the higher lake which was worth the effort.
Arriving at lower lake
Leaving lower lake
Traversing above middle lake
Arriving at upper lake
Upper lake from campsite
Decided to continue exploring above the lake to see if I could find a way to traverse to the PCT. It ended up being sketchier than I was comfortable with and eventually dropped a hundred feet to easier traversing and then open forest above the middle lake. A short bit later I crested the ridge above the PCT where a bootpath headed down. Obviously I'm not the first to go this way.
Leaving upper lake
Found this a bit too sketchy to traverse
Much easier to traverse
Middle lake peeking out
Traversing high above middle lake
Traversed into open forest
Follow the light
Approaching the ridge
Boot path down to PCT
After dropping down to the PCT I hiked for a bit and was tempted to continue to the katwalk but it looked like weather was approaching so decided to call it a day.
Making mental note of mound for my return
On my return I headed straight down to middle lake. Things got a tad bushier as I got closer to the lake but nothing to complain about. Took my time photographing middle and lower lake and then back to my bike. Had a blast biking down the road and in less than 30 minutes was back to the parking area. Fun day to be out in the mountains. If you enjoy mixing bike with hike and a little off trail this is a fun option to shortcut the monotony of the PCT.
I don't recall much noise along the road but I was biking most of rhe way. When I stopped to take pictures I don't recall freeway noise like say from granite mountain. I think I would probably get bored up there pretty quick though and the lakes do have a bit of a bathtub ring to them.
The few reports I found online indicated the lakea weren't that popular in summer but was surprised to see how many GPS track recordings were posted on alltrails. I encountered more people than the parking area indicated but I think some park further down the road right off the freeway. I wouldn't go up there without a bike in summer.
Walking up the road in the summer is way less crowded on a sunny weekend than the PCT or Snow Lake trail or most of other trails along the I-90 corridor. My dog loved romping free along there. An umbrella helps with the sun beating down while traversing the clear cuts. Great views of Mt Rainier and the Alpental valley.
Used to go there every summer there never was a “well used trail” there was a route from the middle lake to the PCT which had flags ever 50’ or so until I and others took them down. I was up there on the PCT a couple weeks ago and identified where it used to go but could see no real trace. There was a swale but that could have been a game trail. If you have to walk/ride the road it is not that much shorter than the Commonwealth Basin trail.
-------------- "You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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