Backpacking with a Baby Part 1: Hyas Lake, Washington

On our last couple of backpacking trips, Steve and I both felt like something (or someone) was missing. I never guessed it could be a baby, because I didn’t think I’d be taking a baby into the wilderness. In fact, when I became pregnant I thought that I was saying good by to the backcountry for a decade at least.

That changed after we had our little girl. After a few months, I knew that I wanted to try backpacking with our baby. We had to wait out the winter, but last weekend (May 8-10, 2015) we finally hit the trail to Hyas Lake with plans to camp at the lake and day hike to Deception Pass or Hosbizz Lake.

Note: This year (2015) proved to be a very low snow year, so if you are reading this post in the future, know that snow conditions will most likely (and hopefully) be different for you. Still, once Hyas Lake is accessible, it makes a great first backpacking trip for a family with a new baby.

Our Itinerary:

I had hoped to hike into Hyas Lake on Friday afternoon, but our dear friends needed help loading their moving truck, so we compromised and camped at Fish Lake, near the CleElum River Trail trailhead on Friday night. I was scared that after one night camping with our baby, we’d give up on the rest of the trip. It was tricky keeping both her and I comfortable that night (more on that in future posts) but we got sufficient sleep. In the morning, we carefully packed our gear and hiked the two miles to Hyas Lake. We encountered patchy snow, but nothing too difficult. At the lake, we ate lunch, pitched our tent, and then headed onwards for Deception Pass and Hosbizz Lake. However, at 4200 feet the snow became deep and continuous. Not wanting to put ourselves in a dangerous position with our little girl on board, we chose to turn around. We enjoyed a mellow afternoon and evening at camp and hiked out the next morning.

For directions and more information visit:

Scatter Creek Ford- Hyas Lake Hike
There is no bridge where Scatter Creek Crosses the Cle Elum Valley Road. High Clearance vehicles are recommended in the early season.


Fish Lake, Cle Elum River Road
Fish Lake (where we camped Friday night) with Cathedral Peak in the background.










Our Experience:

Although this wasn’t a difficult hike or an epic trek and we couldn’t reach Deception Pass or Hosbizz Lake, we experienced a deeply joyful family adventure. Our little girl’s eyes were wide open during most of the daylight hours. Sometimes she was entranced with a pinecone or firelight or the rustle of sleeping bags. Other times we wondered what she was watching. The trees? The dancing light on the forest floor? The sunset? She napped briefly in her backpack, but not for long, as if she didn’t want to miss a thing. She cried less than she does at home!

Hyas Lake.
Our daughter naps in Steve’s arms as we break for lunch at Hyas Lake on Saturday.


On Saturday, right after we turned around just short of Deception Pass, we met a man hiking alone who asked us if we had seen the turn off to Tuck Lake. After we had given our ambiguous answer, he said, “You’re doing what I was doing 20 years ago.” Then he pulled out his smart phone and showed us a picture of him and his wife wearing huge backpacks with a baby, shaded by an umbrella, perched in one of them. The hiker went on to tell us about backpacking trips with older kids where he ran ahead and hid Skittles along the trail to encourage them to keep going during tough parts. After he left, Steve and I talked about our future and how we would keep our family backpacking through the stages of life.

That evening, as I looked up at Cathedral Peak and Mt. Daniel from Hyas Lake, I remembered that I had believed I would not see mountains like these until my kids reached their teens. Not so. Later, as I flipped through our guide book, I realized that there are plenty of shorter hikes in the Washington Cascades that reach lovely country. And who knows, if we raise our kids to love the wild, they may be dragging us along before we know it. But even if we don’t hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a family, my daughter has already pulled me along on a great adventure, an adventure out of myself. She has shown me, and will continue to show me, the wonder of the most mundane aspects of  the natural world.



Over the next several weeks I will be covering the specifics of backpacking with a baby, drawing from reading and personal experience. Here are my planned topics:

Preparing and Packing for a Backpacking Trip with a Baby

-Basic Risk Management when Backpacking with a Baby

-Dealing with Poop and Pee when Backpacking with a Baby

-Trail Food for Baby

-Sleeping in a Tent with a Baby

-Camp Life with a Baby

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