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Barclay Lake plays a larger part in the recreational opportunities of the Seattle and Puget Sound region of Washington than its size would indicate. Just over 10 acres in size, Barclay Lake is the destination of one of the most popular family hiking trails in the new Wild Sky Wilderness. Wild Sky was designated in 2008 as a part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and will be developed only to the extent that several trails will be minimally maintained. The Barclay Lake Trail is popular as it is only a little over two miles long, mostly flat and suitable for families with young children to reach a scenic destination with minimal effort. Tucked between towering Merchant Peak and Baring Mountain, the lake reflects the majesty of the area's mountain terrain.
The wide, well-maintained trail to Barclay Lake gains only 225 feet in elevation, with the highest point 2425 feet above sea level. Cedar boardwalks make easy going across marshy areas, and a sturdy bridge spans Barclay Creek. The trail passes meadows carpeted with wildflowers in the spring and meanders underneath towering old-growth trees and majestic pines. Following Barclay Creek, the trail is shaded by Gunn Peak on the north, with Merchant Peak soon coming into view. Baring Mountain doesn't fully show itself until the trail reaches the lake, then towers over the water in awesome splendor, dominating the landscape.
Little more than a wide spot in Barclay Creek, Barclay Lake is shallow, creating excellent wading and swimming areas for children on their first real hike. Several established camping spots exist, but hikers can camp anywhere here, as long as they are at least 50 feet from the water's edge. Campfires are allowed, as is fishing for the many rainbow trout. Barclay Lake and the Barclay Lake Trail are the perfect places to introduce young children to wilderness hiking and camping. Artists and those who appreciate nature gravitate to Barclay Lake for its serenity and beautiful scenery. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for most access.
Barclay Lake isn't just for beginner trekkers. Other, more strenuous trails continue past Barclay Lake to Stone Lake and Eagle Lake. These trails, although short, are more rugged with greater elevation change. Many hikers heading into the higher, rougher terrain camp the night at Barclay Lake before continuing on. All trails begin at the trailhead which is accessible by passenger car during the summer months. The trails are sometimes accessed with snowshoes during calm winter weather, but the road to the trailhead is often impassible for vehicles. The last vestige of civilization is the little settlement of Baring, three miles by road from the trailhead. Baring offers a small convenience store which serves freshly-prepared food and most of the necessities area visitors find they need. A number of rental cabins are located near Baring and are used as home base for those vacationing in the area.
Located about 40 miles east of the City of Everett, Baring is located at the confluence of several well-known natural and man-made features. Located on the south fork of the Skykomish, a Washington State Scenic River, Baring is on the Cascades Loop Highway in Stevens Pass. The pass is home to several well-known ski areas and famed for the abandoned Great Northern Railway route that first crossed the Cascades nearby. The scenery and rugged peaks of the 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness attract the type of outdoors adventurers who enjoy a challenging terrain amid beautiful vistas. Besides primitive camping opportunities on surrounding public lands, the area around Baring offers a variety of activities to please vacationers. Trail-riding by horseback is available nearby in the small town of Gold Bar, 13 miles to the west of Baring. Gold Bar also offers four restaurants, a motel and outfitters prepared to introduce visitors to a variety of outdoor adventures. West of Gold Bar, white-water rafting on the main branch of the Skykomish River can be either a bring-your-own-equipment adventure or one organized and provisioned by area outfitters. Some parts of the river are suitable for family float trips.
The town of Index south of Baring offers rock climbing on the 500-foot Index Town Wall. Visitors can also climb the rugged trail to overlook the wall and river valley. Abandoned logging roads make for great mountain biking in many areas. Near the town of Skykomish, the accessible Iron Goat Trail follows and overlooks the precarious route of the abandoned Great Northern Railway, including its avalanche sheds and the old Cascades Tunnel. Numerous hiking trails lead to waterfalls and scenic overlooks, making every day spent near Barclay Lake an adventure in unspoiled natural surroundings. Located close to Everett and Seattle, this area of the Cascades is easily accessed for a day or a much longer vacation. Some real estate is available in and around the small towns in the area, but National Forest lands contain few private in-holdings for sale. Private guest cottages and cabins can be found in some of the most scenic locations outside of the national forest boundaries. The Barclay Lake Trail and Wild Sky Wilderness are the perfect places to relax, reset your priorities and refresh your soul.
* Few statistics are available for Barclay Lake. Most are derived from the reports of hikers familiar with the area.
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