Exploring a verdant canyon on the east side of the Kettle Range, Hoodoo Trail makes a great early-season conditioning hike or introduction to overnighting.
The hike up Hoodoo Canyon from Trout Lake to Emerald Lake is a classic, low-elevation Inland Northwest hike through one of the largest remaining low-elevation roadless areas in the Kettle Range. An easy trail with few ups and downs makes the hike suitable for a first-time overnight trip; a sparkling lake—one of the few hike-in lakes in northeast Washington—will coax weary backpackers onward.
Beginning at Trout Lake, cross the outlet creek on a sturdy footbridge and begin switchbacking up through a forest of western redcedar. Moss-draped rocks and hollylike creeping Oregon-grape are reminiscent of Western Washington woods—the wetter east side of the Kettle Range contains many such pockets of surprisingly lush forest. The route quickly opens up to grassy slopes, out of which jut old-growth ponderosas and magnificent rock formations. In late spring, scan the slopes for shooting star, balsamroot and scarlet paintbrush. Reed-ringed Trout Lake lies below.
In about 1.5 miles, pass through a dark birch forest. A slight switchbacking rise provides the last real climb of the hike in. In more than 2.5 miles, the trail forks. The way right continues on Hoodoo Trail, which crests the canyon with a falcon’s-eye view into Emerald Lake and its tiny neighbor Lily Lake—a worthy side excursion. For the lake itself, turn left, switchbacking 600 feet down to aptly named Emerald Lake.
Linger for lunch or set up a tent in one of a handful of dispersed campsites. Watch for moose, which frequent the shallow lake. In dry years, the lake nearly disappears by late summer. However, early-summer hikers should pack a swimsuit; check the south end of the lake for the best swimming.