Starting at the Snow Lake trailhead, motor your way past the crowds and up the switchbacks some 500 feet to the saddle over looking Snow Lake. Eye up the ridge to the northwest as you crest the saddle to orient yourself over the next 3 miles and continue down to the lake access and around the north edge of Snow Lake. The last mile to Gem Lake pushes you up another 800 feet, but there are ample photo opportunities and scenic side trips for you to regain your legs.
Rest for a bit at Gem Lake and soak in the views. You’re about 5 miles from the trailhead and at the highest point on your journey to Upper Wildcat. Take a quick side trip up Wright Mountain for some incredible panoramas or a shorter jaunt up the west arm of Roosevelt toward Kaleetan Peak on the climber’s trail at the junction on the west edge of Gem Lake. There’s a camp en route to Roosevelt and has some great views–definitely on the list for a fair weather weekend.
The descent to Lower Wildcat is steep, but not as bad as people make it out to be. All the topo I’ve looked at has it at 800ft decent over .5 miles at most. It’s a chore to get back up but the views here Roosevelt’s northern slopes are unreal.
Fight the bugs the last mile or so to Lower Wildcat and keep moving because they’re everywhere. Once you get to Lower Wildcat the trail terminates and you’ll need to get a little adventurous to find your way up stream to Upper Wildcat. Push on–it’s worth it.
The route is to the west, your left as you’re looking over Lower Wildcat, and sticks to the left side of the run off as you make your way uphill crossing over only once you top out near the lake’s shore. Multiple blow downs across the trail threw me off on my first attempt; move cautiously and with intention or you’ll lose it and have to bushwack your way up. Not the end of the world, but certainly less enjoyable than the game trail that leads you in.
Once you arrive, there is an obvious camp site at the water’s edge and another two or three good spots for hammocks around to your right as you overlook the water. Take a dip to beat the bugs, swim out to the island in the middle if you dare, and be amazed at the waterfalls to the west that plummet some 800+ feet into the lake.
Caroline and Derrick lakes are nestled over the west and north arms of Caroline Peak, which dominates the skyline, and would be excellent day long excursions from a base camp here for the more adventurous multi-day travelers.
Last I was here, there were heavy signs of use– we need to keep these back country sites pristine. LNT and use your best backcountry etiquette. Pack it in. Pack it out.