hiking autumn Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Lake Grace

Bullseye Traverse (day 3): Frosty Pass to Whitepine via Lake Grace

On what would originally have been our penultimate day circumnavigating the Bull’s Tooth before returning back to Stevens Pass but has now become our last day on the trail due to nearby bushfires, we hike the short distance to Frosty Pass before descending steeply to Whitepine— not without a final lake swim in picturesque Lake Grace, though!

Trail stats: Frosty Pass to Whitepine via Lake Grace

Distance: 23km

Elevation gain: 700m

Trail hours: 7hrs

Highlights: Walking through a marmot colony; a refreshing dip in Lake Grace; more spectacular autumn scenery along the Frosty-Wildhorse Trail; stuffing full of wild huckleberries

Read more: Top Washington Hikes COMING SOON

We awake this morning to spectacular amounts of smoke hanging low in the air and completely obscuring the surrounding mountains. But for an eerie orange sun burning through the haze, it’s a dim morning in great contrast to our previous 2 days on the trail.

After a quick breakfast, we set off towards Frosty Pass, reaching an unassuming spot in the trees about an hour later that my GPS claims (and dad confirms) is the pass— it’s like no mountain pass I’ve ever seen and I easily would have breezed on by with no notice, oblivious to the turn-off for Wildhorse Creek Trail. Really, it’s just a spot in the trees between two mountains where the trail also forks off to our new destination.

Marmots wildlife Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Colony of marmots (can you spot all 3?)
Marmots wildlife Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Marmots along the trail

We manage to walk through an entire colony of marmots, with at least a dozen lounging on rocks both above and below our trail. Most are curiously unbothered by our presence and eagerly pose for photographs, including some adolescent marmots who stick their heads out of the den just for the occasion.

From here, it’s an easy descent to the Lake Grace trail junction a further 35min below the pass. Eileen encourages us to take the side trip, adamant that I need to see Lake Grace and also that she would prefer to descend at her own pace rather than our slightly more brisk clip.

girl swimming lake bikini Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Little Grace Lake
girl swimming lake bikini Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Time for a quick dip in Lake Grace

Our trip up to Lake Grace takes longer than anticipated, the 350m ascent a sweaty ordeal and then the beauty of the lake rather distracting when we do finally crest over the ridge.

We run around taking photos of the view, enchanting even in the present haze, before descending to the lake shore for a quick dip.

By the time we finally reach our packs again (which we left behind at the trail junction), 2.5hrs have passed and we’re now pretty pressed for our 3pm pick-up.

hiking autumn Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Lake Grace
wildlife chipmunk Alpine Lakes Wilderness

The remainder of the day is spent absolutely hoofing it down an impossibly steep trail to meet our lift, as well as Eileen, who beat us by 2hrs and is visibly unimpressed by our delay.

Thankfully, my reunion with Sarah and Jim distracts somewhat from the tardiness and we’re soon back at Stevens Pass, yanking off dusty boots and ladling our overworked limbs into the car.

We manage to stay awake for the drive home and a great family dinner at a BBQ joint in Monroe, but by the time all 3 Brisbines are back home just before 9pm, we are ready to collapse.

It’s been nothing but long days on the trail, racking up kilometres alongside some respectable elevation gain, so the subsequent rest is well deserved. What a (re)introduction to Washington hiking it’s been!

Map: Bullseye Traverse

Download this AllTrails map for your own Bullseye Traverse (excuse the interruptions in my map, I am still getting the hang of recording trails properly):

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