central cascades, North America, Pacific Northwest Outdoors

Spider Gap

Tricia and I had been wanting to hike this place for a while. There is not a ton of information on this hike even though WTA website has decent driving directions to the trailhead. Since we visit Leavenworth about once or twice a year, we are familiar with the region. If you are interested in following our foot steps it’s probably easiest to plan your trip by researching Spider Meadow or Phelps Creek Trailhead.

The first part of the trail up to Spider Meadow (~ 5 miles) is pretty flat. Once you enters Spider Meadows, the world opens up for you: Marmots whistle a welcome, wildflowers bob their heads in the meadow, and beautiful views roll out in front of you in all directions.

Keep hiking forward, it will lead you up the Spider Gap (stay on the left at a fork at the end of Spider Meadow; the right split takes you to Phelps Basin). Here’s a look back at the Spider Meadow below.

At about 6000 ft, we started to encounter snow. It’s a little less than a mile of trudging up the snow field before you get to the ridge to peek over to the other side. And it’s a wonderful world over the ridge.

As you descend the gap on the other side, you will have Chiwawa mountain (8451 ft) on your left side with the remaining of its glacier connecting to the turquoise Upper Lyman Lake. The trail follows the right side of the Upper Lyman Lake. There are plenty of larch trees scattered in the valley which must be beautifully golden by now (late September).

We picked a nice open spot for our camp. We thought it was going to be a busy weekend, but it turned out that there was no one around AT ALL.

We sat by our tent and watched the sunset. Then a full moon rose over Spider Gap. We had time to experiment with some long exposure shots.

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Fireflies in Spider Gap! And surprisingly, this photo won me the second place in 2017 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest
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Oh full moon, please enlighten me!

DSC_0335-2The hike back the next day is equally beautiful. We were blessed with two gorgeous sunny days. Here’s my almost failed attempt to glissade down the snow field.

Unfortunately, on the drive out the most difficult 2 miles, my car hit a rock. Fortunately, the damage was basically scrape on the front bumper. I swear I didn’t even see the rock between a super dusty road and deep ruts.

It took us 3 ½ hours to drive from Seattle to Phelps Creek Trailhead on the way in. We took a detour to my favorite BBQ joint near Seattle called Rhodie’s on the way back. It was well worth the time.

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glacial melt lake like a piece of jade on the valley floor
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sunshine and fall colors
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Rainier Pleated Gentian 😉

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Hope you enjoy this post. Hope you are inspired to take a trip to Spider Gap yourself. I highly recommend it.

Some FAQs.

  • When did we go?
    • 9/3-9/4/17, Labor day weekend.
  • What I wish I had known about this hike?
    1. The last two miles of drive prior to the trailhead has REALLY bad road conditions. My wife and I drove in our Civic. It was a poor choice. We were lucky that it has been a very dry summer. We could have gotten stuck in the rut if it had rained.
    2. There are still plenty of snow up on Spider Gap. I wish I had my microspikes. It was obviously doable with just hiking boots, but our trip would’ve been much easier with spikes.
    3. The view is absolutely breathtaking both while going up the gap and going into the Upper Lyman Lake side. It’s TOTALLY one of our favorite hikes in Washington.
  • What permits/Passes did I need?
    1. No camping permits needed! (crazy!)
    2. Northwest Forest Pass for parking
  • How long was the trip?
    • If you do the loop, it’s 44 miles. We didn’t have the time to finish the loop. We ended up hiking to Lyman lake (day 1) and back (day 2) which was a little over 10 miles each way. We camped one night south of Lyman Lake.
  • What’s the elevation change?
    • We started at 3500ft, ascending up to 7100 ft at the top of Spider Gap then descend down to about 5500 to Lyman Lake.
  • How long did it take us?
    • We had two days to do our trip. It took a little over 5 hours to get to Lyman lake and a little less than 5 hours to get back to our car.

Interested my other trips? Click here.

Edit: my long exposure photo with our headlamps in Spider Gap won 2nd place in Camp life category in the Northwest Exposure Photo Contest 2017. Hooray! You can read about the contest here and perhaps submit your own photos for 2018 contest? They throw an award event for the photo winners and give out prizes to encourage more local outdoor photographers to participate. Oh, did I mention they had an open bar? 🙂

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