Hiking the Liberty Lake Loop Trail is a magical, zen experience. It is one of my favorite trails to hike. The filtered sunlight in the deep forest, tinkling stream, and quiet make me return over and over again.
Getting there: Going east on I-90, take exit 296 to Liberty Lake.
Fees: A $2 entry fee is charged at a toll booth from May-September
Trail Length: 8.4 miles (including one mile each way from the parking lot)
Elevation at top: 3,250 feet
Difficulty: Very challenging, steep, narrow, and winding in places. You need to be sure-footed and strong-lunged to do this one.
Season: The trail is best used from late spring to mid-fall, as it can get muddy in the spring and is so steep in places as to be impassible when it has snow or ice on it.
Gear needed: Boots or solid shoes are needed. You’ll want to take water. Always layer your clothing. It can feel cool at the start but by the time you reach the top, you’ll be overheated.
Your adventure begins at the Liberty Lake Regional Park parking lot. The access trail linking the parking lot with the trail is beautiful, with the lake and cattails on one side and the forest closing in on the other.
Reaching the trailhead, you have to choose to go left or right. This is where the loop starts. I choose the left, as I like to do the first part of the hike with the creek gurgling beside me to urge me on. The spicy smell of the forest completes the experience. The trail follows the creek for the first 4 miles or so. From birds singing to the sound of the stream and the deep forest, you are in another world. A place of quiet deep in the woods. The trail goes up and down, over bridges crossing the stream, steadily gaining altitude.
The Cedar Grove
At 1.5 miles into the hike, you come to the Cedar Grove. The filtered light coming through the enormous trees and the cool damp ground beneath make it a perfect place to stop and rest before ascending the dreaded switchback trail that takes your breath away and feels like it will never end. A view of Liberty Lake in the distance is your reward for completing this section of the trail.
Liberty Creek Falls
About 1.1 miles further on you come to Liberty Creek Falls. During early months or wetter years, the falls are flowing hard, crashing over the rocks. It is merely a trickle in summer with the dry conditions.
The Camp Hughes Cabin, a metal shed built as a Boy Scout project, sits in the trees atop the summit. The cabin is a nice place to sit for a minute and catch your breath.
The descent is made on the Edith Hansen horseback riding trail. The path can get very steep in sections. When you rejoin the path where you started, head back to the parking lot tired but exhilarated for having gone the distance.
NOTE: There are different off-shoot paths to explore if you want to change it up on subsequent visits.