The weather was dismal Thursday and we wanted to get in a day trip, so we headed to the Mountain Loop Highway with a short day hike to Independence Lake if the weather allowed. We drove from the Granite Falls end of the highway on up to where the ice caves collect at the foot of Big Four Mountain. The trailhead road is directly across the valley from the ice caves trailhead.
It was foggy and misty all the way up the road and the steep drop offs just when into the white below. The trail to Independence Lake is just 0.7 miles. It’s great hikes for kids or anyone with reasonable agility– there are some rocks and roots and a few short steep sections. Although it is short, I don’t recommend it for those with mobility issues.
When we got to the lake, we could only see a few yards in the fog and mist– we were literally in the clouds. We explored to the other end of the lake and had our lunch and then it cleared up enough to see to the other end. The peaks and cliffs above were still hidden from view. The lake is at 3700′ elevation.
The trail continues up a steep set of switchbacks to some small tarn lakes and on up to North Lake, where you top out on a ridge and descend 700 feet to the lake.