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Dusty Lake

Central Washington > Potholes Region
47.1519, -119.9223 Map & Directions
6.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
350 feet
Highest Point
1,000 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
The west end of Dusty Lake. Photo by David Hagen. Full-size image
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Wildlife
  • Lakes

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One of the Quincy Lakes, Dusty Lake is further in the backcountry, making for a good long day hike or an overnight. Continue reading

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Hiking Dusty Lake

When the waters from the Ice Age Floods poured out of the Grand Coulee, they quickly filled the Quincy Basin, overtopped the low points of Evergreen and Babcock Ridges, then dropped 850 feet in less than three miles to the Columbia River, carving the spectacular recessional cataracts we know today as Crater, Potholes, and Frenchman Coulees.

Just southwest of Quincy, Potholes Coulee—like Frenchman Coulee a few miles to the south—consists of 2 cataract-lined arms or alcoves separated by a basalt rib over 350 feet high, 1000 feet wide, and a mile and half long.

Ancient Lakes, four small disconnected lakes, lie at the head of the North Alcove, and feature a waterfall plunging 160 feet into the easternmost lake. Much-larger Dusty Lake lies at the head of the South Alcove. Both arms are lined with 200 to 300-foot basalt cliffs towering above the coulee floor. The entire area is a well-known hiking destination and Dusty Lake in particular has become increasingly popular with backpackers itching to get out in the early season. There are two ways to access this area; an upper and a lower trailhead

Upper Trailhead

Start out from from the parking area at the gate. Walk 1.5 miles down Quincy Lakes Road to a parking area on the right at an old metal sign marked “Dusty Lake Trail” across from the west end of Burke Lake. (note that  from January 1 to September 30, this gate is open, and you can drive the road to the parking area near the Dusty Lake sign).

From the sign marked "Dusty Lake Trail", drop down the upper cataract on a trail with a handrail to the next lower bench. Follow the trail across the bench and down the middle cataract 0.5 mile to the east end of Dusty Lake. Return the way you came.

Lower Trailhead

The route to Dusty Lakes from the lower trailhead follows the old 2-track along Babcock Bench as if heading for Ancient Lakes, but instead of turning off towards those lakes, continue across the mouth of the North Alcove and around the nose of the coulee rib about 1 mile to another old 2-track heading left up the South Alcove. Follow this trail up the coulee about a mile to the west end of Dusty Lake.

This end of Dusty Lake is much broader than the east end with plenty of area to explore. When you’re ready to depart, return the way you came.

WTA Pro Tip: The water in all the lakes is irrigation runoff and is not safe to drink even after filtering or boiling. Plan to carry all the water you need for the duration of you outing.

Hike Description Written by
David Hagen, WTA Correspondent

Dusty Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 47.1519, -119.9223 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

To the upper trailhead: From I-90 take exit 149, turn left onto SR 281, and drive north towards Quincy and Wenatchee. In 5.6 miles turn left onto White Trail Road (aka 5-NW) and drive 2.9 miles until the road jogs to the right.

In the middle of the jog, turn left onto T-NW signed “Public Fishing”. Drive this gravel road 0.5 miles to a large parking area with a kiosk and a yellow gate. From here on the road is known as Quincy Lakes Rd.

Lower Trailhead. From I-90 take exit 149, turn left onto SR 281, and drive north towards Quincy and Wenatchee. In 5.6 miles turn left onto White Trail Road (aka 5-NW) and drive 7.8 miles to 9-NW (note: after 4 miles White Trail Rd swings north & may also be signed U-NW). Turn left on 9-NW and drive west. In 2 miles the pavement ends and the road becomes Ancient Lakes Rd. Follow it down onto Babcock Bench and drive 4 miles to the trailhead.

More Hike Details


Central Washington > Potholes Region

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Columbia Basin Wildlife Area

Guidebooks & Maps

Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson – Mountaineers Books)

On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods (Bruce Bjornstad – Keokee Books)

Day Hiking: Eastern Washington (Landers & Romano – Mountaineers Books)

Washington State Dept of Natural Resources (DNR) Moses Lake

USGS Babcock Ridge

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Dusty Lake

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