Elevation gain: 600 feet
Location: Packwood Lake
This hike was exactly what I needed: a low-key stroll through the woods that led me to a serene lake. There was no climbing, no technical work, no severe elevation gain or shaky ridge to maneuver. Just a pleasant, easy day in a lovely setting.
The dirt path was well-maintained and flat as could be. In fact, it was so flat that I nearly doubled my hiking time and made it through the second-growth forest and to the lake in just over an hour. After crossing a bridge and passing an abandoned ranger station, I could see the crystal clear water peeking out from behind low hanging branches.
Several prime campsites lined the lake, which was much bigger than I anticipated and sported an island of trees in its middle. The views were supreme. A hazy Mount Rainier could be seen in the distance but the jagged peaks of Goat Rocks were much more impressive from my vantage point.
I followed the trail around the lake, gaining a few hundred feet in elevation, before the path hit a creek and became quite difficult to follow through the scratchy underbrush. After a quick battle with mosquitoes and black flies, I gave up and returned to the lake shore for lunch.