Wide range of outdoor activities at scenic site
On a recent Friday morning, Alta Lake State Park was already an active spot. There were a few families spaced out on the beach, and half-a-dozen boats anchored in distant corners, with fish lines lazily trailing into the water. On the far edge of the lake, fish jumped and blue dragonflies alighted on reeds just above the surface of the water.
Alta Lake State Park covers 174 acres including a serene 2-mile-long lake nestled into the mountains at the mouth of the Methow Valley. All that is needed to dip your toes or paddle in cool waters is a Discover Pass, or a small day-use fee payable at the gate.
The highlight of the camping park is the lake and a mile-long trail up the mountain reflected in its waters. In years gone by, the lakeshore and park were shaded by towering trees. The red bark of ponderosa pine contrasted against sunlit blue waters and silver-gray cliffs. The 2014 fires cleared the trees from the day-use area. The park is recovering through restoration and replanting. Shrubs and grasses cover the scars, while young trees take root where their forebears once towered.
In spite of changes to the scenery, Alta Lake State Park grew in popularity this season, according to Park Manager Sharon Soelter. “We’ve been discovered. We are significantly busier this year,” she said.
While the increase in visitors may be attributed to COVID-19 driven outdoor recreation, the park does not appear to be overcrowded. “We haven’t had any issues,” said Soelter. “The day-use area is limited to the number of cars parked in stalls.” There is no parking allowed on the road. That rule, combined with the limited reservations-only campground, keeps crowds in check.
A mile-long trail climbs 750 feet above the lake providing views of Alta Lake and the Methow River. The trail was restored in 2016 by a youth crew from Washington Trails Association. A map and trail description can be found at www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/alta-lake-state-park.
On the lake
A separate boat launch area with a 60-foot dock keeps boaters safely distanced from the swimming area. The onsite Paddle EZ shop is closed due to COVID-19. Paddleboards are available for rent at nearby Ives Landing Paddle Board Rentals in Pateros. Owner Libby Harrison will deliver paddleboards and paddles to clients at Alta Lake, Brewster and Pateros. Group rentals, half-day, full-day and multi-day packages can be booked online at facebook.com/IvesLandingPaddleBoardRentals.
The day-use area has plenty of widely spaced picnic tables, well-maintained restrooms, and a large sandy beach that slopes gently into a roped-off swimming area. A snack shack serves up cold drinks, treats, floaties and camping supplies. In prior seasons, the snack shack provided a wider selection of meals and hand-dipped ice cream, but with COVID-19 precautions, food and drink are limited to pre-packaged items.
For heartier meals, look to Pateros for takeout breakfast, lunch and dinner that can be brought to the Alta Lake State Park and enjoyed in the picnic area. Sweet River Bakery in Pateros offers breakfast pastries, pizza, salads and scrumptious sandwiches. Ed’s Mudville Breakfast Bar and Grill, located in the old Howard’s Restaurant location, cooks up standard diner fare and an expanded Mexican menu.
For more information about Alta Lake, visit https://www.parks.state.wa.us/239/Alta-Lake.