Area: French Creek

Length: 3.0

Elevation: 4000 +2320 -150

Condition: good

Solitude: high

Appeal: high

Features: views, alpine lake

Difficulty: medium high

Administered: nominally USFS, Wenatchee River R.D.

Trailhead: Jack / Trout trailhead

Connects to:
    Snowall Creek
    Blackjack Ridge
    Meadow Creek

Guides: -none-

   Green Trails Chiwaukum Mountains
   USGS Jack Ridge
   USGS Cradle




This place would be completely overrun by crowds if it were not for two factors:

  • 2200 feet elevation gain in about 3 miles... on par with the Carolines trail in the Enchantments.
  • It is a worthy day of travel just to attain the start of the trail.

You can reach the lake the good way, the fast way, or the easy way. The good way is up the magnificent Snowall Creek valley; but that is a major undertaking in its own right. The fast way, and by far the hardest, is a heroic one-day ascent directly from the Jack Creek trailhead. Or the easy way is with a stopover at Meadow Creek. It can even be done as a side trip with a light day-pack, using the Meadow Creek area as a base camp.

Best and most ambitious, hook up with the connecting trails and make a giant loop of your choosing! There is more than one way to do it, all of them challenging, all of them rewarding.



Be sure to pack plenty of water for a sunny 3-mile ascent. Starting from a camp at Meadow Creek, cross to the east edge of the meadows and locate the marked trail up the ridge to the left. It will say "Blackjack Ridge Trail" but we know better. Say hello and goodbye to the horses. You are unlikely encounter pack beasts from here on.

View to upper Jack Creek from Cradle Lake trail

Cradle Lake shoreline

The first 0.6 miles slant gently up sparsely forested slopes to the northeast. You gain about 500 feet gently. As you approach the general area of Pablo Creek you might hear water, but won't see it. The trail changes modes, getting down (up?) to business in a long sequence of switchbacks. You ascend another 600 feet over the next 0.6 miles.

The mode changes again. The switchbacks straighten out, and the trail heads straight west to attain the ridge top and then to follow it. At 1.5 miles, after another 250 feet of elevation, pass the junction where the Jack Ridge trail splits off and down to the right, heading to the Pablo Creek Basin. Stay left, continuing along the ridge.

At 2.1 miles, after 500 feet more elevation gain, the trail suddenly departs from the ridge. First, it is on a level trajectory. Then your hear sinks, as you lose about 150 feet of the hard-earned elevation. Fortunately, this aberration is brief. At 2.4 miles, the grade corrects itself, leveling for a while, and then entering switchbacks to gain 350 feet and arrive at Cradle Lake near its outlet, 3.0 miles.

Go to the right, upon rocks along the shoreline, to soak (freeze) your feet in the clear water by the northeast shore of the lake. Or cross the outlet creek on stones, and follow the path along the lake to the southeast to reach the camp at the southern edge of the lake, 0.2 miles.

Cradle Lake

Cradle Lake shoreline


The camp was established by vigorous stomping of horse feet in a fragile alpine area where horses should never have been. Human boots didn't make things any better. As a result, the camp area is seriously damaged, and it will take decades to recover. Please observe the marked vegetation recovery areas. Hey, take off those boots and put on some soft-soled sandals if staying in this area overnight. Bare feet are inadvisable: horses are stupid about cleaning up their messes, and often leave fragments of broken glass scattered about.

This lake experiences a late melt-off in the summer; consequently, it often experiences a late mosquito hatch. Come prepared, with appropriate clothes, screens, repellents, etc.

Continuing up to Snowall Pass

Ascending to Snowall Pass


One short trip that you must do is to follow the well-rebuilt trail from the outlet, across the boulder field on the north side of the lake, and up to Snowall Pass — easy except for a couple of short stony switchbacks at the end. It is only a mile round-trip.


If you are continuing on into the Snowall Basin, you can locate the route down from the low point of the saddle (ridge saddle).

You can see the trail, can't you...?

Trail into Snowall Basin

Trail into Snowall Basin