Punch Bowl Lake and Snass Mountain
Despite being in the 103 Hikes book this area seems to see relatively little use, perhaps because the book does not mention access to Snass Mountain or how pretty the trails are. The Whatcom and Dewdney trails in this area can be hiked as a loop and combined with scrambling the surrounding peaks, make a nice 2 or even 3 day outing.
The trail starts out as Dewdney Trail at the Cascade Recreation Area parking lot located on Hwy 3 12 km east of the west entrance to Manning park. After 2.5km the Whatcom Trail branches off to the right. The Whatcom Trail gives access to Punch Bowl Lake and the pass above the lake. The trail itself is steepish in the first half, but has great views of the US peaks and traverses the mountain side through several meadows with flowers in the second half. Snass Mountain can be ascended from Punch Bowl pass. The mountain has a tower on top. Some of the other peaks look good for scrambling or easy climbing.
Whatcom Trail goes back into the open forest after Punch Bowl Lake and follows the creek flowing out the lake to the top end of Paradise Valley. At Snass Mountain View Camp the Whatcom Trail meets the Dewdney Trail again. To get back to the trailhead, turn left at the junction.
Dewdney Trail is a horse trail, and it looks on the map as if the trail would go through the forest in the valley bottom all the way. But there is almost no forest in the upper Snass Creek valley because of giant avalanche slopes everywhere. The trail seems quite rough in many parts for a horse trail. It follows Snass Creek from the top of the narrow valley along subalpine meadows that gradually become higher and more dense. At several few points the creek and the trail join (at least at snow melt in early summer). There are plenty of signs of bears, and visibility in the vegetation is often less than 5m. In August when the Thimbleberries are ripe there should be bears on the trail. Shortly before returning to the initial Whatcom Trail turnoff, Snass Creek disappears underground, the trail finally goes back into the forest, and Dry Lake lies on the right (in early July 2007 the lake was not dry).
There are signs of camping at the south end of Punch Bowl Lake, but it's probably better to camp at the north end because the flower meadows at the south end are too fragile for frequent camping. At the north end tenting is possible in the open forest by the lake. From the lake it's very close to Snass Mtn and the surrounding peaks. The Snass Mtn View Camp lower down is another camping option (flat, open meadows, good views). Snass Mtn View Camp has an outhouse and a picnic table.
The Whatcom trail was built in the 1850s. It went from Bellingham to Kamloops, while the Dewdney trail was built a few years later, going to Princeton and further on to the Rockies.