I've been meaning to get to the Cougar Lakes for years. I heard it was gorgeous-full of wildlife (and mosquitoes) and was one of the prettiest places in the William O Douglas Wilderness. Well- I finally got there! Just finished up a three day backpacking trip with Kim Brown to the lakes via the Pacific Crest Trail from Chinook Pass and out the Laughingwater Trail to Ohanapecosh in Mount Rainier NP.
Here are some highlights of the 3 day 34 mile trek:
- Do not get your Rainier permit at Ohanepecosh-they are not prepared for it-may not know what to do and you will be a victim of bureaucratic bungling--but has once again convinced me about what a nationalized health care plan will look like (ok-no, more politics!)
- Do Cougar lakes during the week in chilly weather. Why? We were the only ones in the entire basin-had a premiere site on Little Cougar Little with a view of House Rock. And no bugs! It was too cold for the little buzzers.
- The Green Trail Map (Bumping Lake no 271) has lots of inaccuracies. That's the bad news. The good news is that I was tracking trails on this trip for a new Green Trails Mount Rainier S-map that includes this area. Cougar Lakes from the PCT is 3.3 miles-a lot longer than what the map says-
- And the Laughingwater Creek Trail is a lot longer too- I always had a feeling that was the case too as this was my third time on this trail and I knew it was longer than what was stated on signs and maps. Trailhead to Three Lakes Campground is 7. 3 miles not 6 miles. And Three Lakes to PCT is 2.0 miles not 1.5 miles.
- The old trail from Big Cougar to the PCT exists! And it is in good shape! Kim and I hiked this 2.2 mile gorgeous trail through meadows and rocky basins and over a high shelf on the crest. It will appear on that new map (available next spring) that I was telling you about.
- Swamp Lake is actually a nice lake while Three Lakes is actually a nice swamp.
- Three Lakes campground is probably one of the quietest backcountry campsites within the entire Mount Rainier National Park
- Only spooked one elk on this trip but they are out there in numbers-elk droppings and tracks everywhere-
- Goats too!
- You want views, meadows, alpine lakes, amazing old-growth, and not much company? You'll want to do this trip-and yep-it'll be in my upcoming Backpacking Washington book.