Area: Middle Fork Snoqualmie

Length: 5.6

Elevation: 1440 + 2520 - 60

Condition: moderately good, bad spots

Solitude: medium high

Appeal: medium

Features: attractive lake, secluded camp

Difficulty: moderate

Administered: North Bend RD

Trailhead: Dingford Creek TH

Connects to: Upper Middle Fork trail
Lower Middle Fork trail

Guides: 100Alp

Maps: Green Trails Skykomish



Having just spent an hour warping your rack and pinion steering to pass over the boulders in those last six miles of accursed Road 54, it had better count for something.

The long miles to Dutch Miller Gap are maybe an overwhelming prospect, while the short miles on the Lower Middle Fork are too busy and better accessed from the lower trailhead. So there are lots of reasons to forget about the Dingford trailhead, which is exactly what almost everybody else is going to do. Of those who make it that far, almost all are seeking the cutthroat trout at Myrtle Lake. Forget about trout. Go the way less traveled.

This is another puzzling example of two nearby trails, almost the same length, both with interesting features, but one disregarded.


The first mile is a vigorous ascent on switchbacks. Fortunately, the tread and grade are good. Pass this early when temperatures are cool and your energy is high. There are some impressive groves of old growth trees along the way. Usually this part of the trail is in great shape, as long as winter storms did not knock down a few serious monster trees across the path. It has happened before.

The trail levels out, and enters into the high creek valley. I have also been told that on a hot summer day you can drop down from the along this stretch to a magic water park along Dingford Creek, maybe worth a look. At 1.3 miles, pass the obvious notch of the creeklet from Pumpkinseed Lake. (A cute but tiny lake that, theoretically, you can reach by following the creek up the hill.)


At 2.3 miles, you will reach the distinctive crossing of little Goat Creek. After hopping this creek, there is a woody mass of tree roots on the left, and if you climb up to the back side of this you can find the rustic foot-path a mile up to Horseshoe Lake.


But back to the main objective. Continue your stroll along the main trail to a clear fork at 3.1 miles. The left fork continues uphill a short distance and then levels again to reach Myrtle Lake (and beyond).

For Hester Lake, take the right fork. It descends and then levels in thick creek-bottom vegetation. At 3.5 miles, ford the ankle-deep creek. At 3.7 miles, reach another creek, and another ford. The trail seems to dead-end here in an ugly stony wash. Ask yourself "if I were a trail, where would I be?" You can see that it clearly wouldn't go directly to the steep wall of mineral soil on the other side — more feasible to dodge slightly upstream. So do that; cross the creek (a boulder hop) and swerve left. As you climb up the far bank, find yourself on the trail again. Remember what you did, so you can find your way on the return trip.

The trail continues in thinning forest, following at a distance the left outlet creek from Hester Lake. You will occasionally have views back to "Undiscovered Peak" (there is a story to go along with that).

Things remain very pleasant despite occasional brush and moderate elevation gain. However, if you arrive early in the season, at mile 4.5 you will encounter a meadow that is likely to be flooded. You can carry your boots and wade through, or work your way through tangled vegetation on higher ground, staying left, until the meadow turns somewhat solid again.

Again back on track, at 5.0 miles begin a serious uphill grade. This is nowhere near as bad as it first appears, and it goes quickly on a few switchbacks. After gaining about 300 feet, the trail takes you on a level above some duck ponds (usually stocked with happy ducks), dropping you at the rock-hop crossing of the lake outlet creek, 5.6 miles.

The lake bottom at Hester is a little unusual — no blanket of soft mush. Instead, there is a distinct rocky bed and a layer of barely decomposed chunks of wood. A disaster for fishing, but pleasant wading, with care.

Be sure to explore the camp a short way up the shore, ignoring the illegal fire ring that you would never use anyway. There are other camp possibilities higher up or near the outlet, in an emergency crowding situation where somebody else also reached the lake.