This is a nice, quiet little forest hike, where the journey is half the destination. The lake is pond sized, and surrounded by large boulders. It is pretty in its own way, a still lake with nice reflections, yellow waterlilies and silvered logs floating on the surface. The clumps of grasses and moss growing on the floating logs create a mini ecosystem to observe up close.
The trail starts next to Pyramid Creek, but the only view you will get of the creek is from the road at the beginning of the hike. For the first mile, you are in scrappy Douglas-fir and pine forest with half dead trees and salal understory.
The way is steep with loose rock, and can be hard on the knees going back down. If you turn back and look, you will see some glimpses of Sourdough Mountain and Davis Peak across the valley. In about a mile, cross a little stream; this is the outlet stream from the lake.
Here the forest changes to a beautiful green, with moss, deer fern and huckleberry bushes under healthy hemlock and cedar trees. There are some large old logs here from trees that have fallen and have since been cleared off the trail. The trail stays level for just a short ways, allowing you to catch your breath and look for some of the wildflowers that make their home in the shady forest.
As you hike, look for tiny twinflowers, bunchberry, foamflower and the penny sized pink flowers of pipsissewa, all close to the ground among the moss. After this nice break, you will start climbing again. Once you reach an impressive 5 inch diameter log where the trail has been cut through, you only need to switchback up the small ridge and drop down to the lake.
The path forks just before the lakeshore. For the best lunch spot, go left, up and around a couple of shrubs, and you will find some sitting rocks and a bit of shoreline. This is a small area and the only place close to the water. Don’t count on going swimming; while good to sit next to, this isn't the best lake to swim in.
Admire the silvered logs and the view of Pyramid Peak from here. If you go to the right at the fork, there is a path you can follow up to the large boulder that overlooks the lake. This is also a nice place for a lunch break. Here is the end of the official trail, although an unmaintained climbers path continues on.
Before you head back, take a closer look at the floating logs, You may spot the roundleaf sundew, a carnivorous plant that makes its home on partially submerged moss covered logs in freshwater bogs. It is tiny, you will need to look carefully. Before you leave home, look up pictures of this plant, latin name Drossera rotundifolia, so you know what to look for when you get to the lake.
Extending your hike
Pyramid Lake is a short hike, so if you have a long drive to the trailhead, add in one (or all) of these other nearby short hikes to fully experience the area.
- Thunder Knob (just up Highway 20)
- Ladder Creek Falls (in Newhalem, and includes a colorful lightshow at night)
- Skagit River (a short walk through the North Cascades National Park Visitors Center and campground)
Round the trip out with a stop in the Visitors Center to learn a little about the area, then stop at Cascadian Farms for ice cream if you're heading back west on your way home.