Carolyn Lake to
Hayden Pass Trailhead
Carolyn Lake sits just to the west of Rocky Sea Pass. It's about 200 yards south of the trail and is a popular overnight hiking destination for people coming from the Hayden Peak Trailhead. The lake itself is similar to other lakes found along the trail, but what sets it apart is that it has populations of arctic grayling. This is a great fishing location for those interested in catching a unique fish species to add to their Highline Trail experience.
This section of trail is probably our least favorite of any section on the Highline, and for several reasons. This section gets the highest use of any other section of the trail. Lots of people use this area for day hikes or short overnight trips. Expect to see a lot of people in this area, especially if you pass through on a weekend. There will also be lots of dogs on the trail too.
This section is heavy timber from the time you drop off Rocky Sea Pass until you reach the trailhead. This reduces the cool mountain breezes and blocks any view you may have of the surrounding landscape. Wildfire has opened up several small areas of the trail, but your inability to see the mountains you pass will leave you wishing you could just see a little bit more scenery. Not being able to see more than a few hundred yards down the trail can also make this stretch seem almost never-ending. The first time we hiked the trail we were tired and ready to be back to the trailhead. We had misjudged the miles we had left, so with each bend we anticipated seeing something that would indicate we were getting close to the end. That moment took far longer than we expected. We have talked to many others who experience the same thing, so don't be surprised if you experience this feeling as well.
Our biggest reason for disliking this section of trail is because it means the trail is nearing the end (unless of course you're starting on the west end of the trail). The trail officially ends as you come to a kiosk. This can be somewhat misleading because you will see several side trails that go off towards the highway shortly before the trailhead, and in some cases you will even see cars near the trail. The last 200 yards of trail is an uphill climb. It's always bittersweet to know that soon you'll be entering the world of cell phones, email, and all the other modern "conveniences" you haven't had to worry about on while on the trail. So try to take everything in during this section before you reach the end of the Highline Trail.
Camping Potential - 4
Water Availability - 3
Difficulty - 2
Scenery - 1