|Trail Highlights:||Lake views; mountain views; wildflowers
|Round-trip Distance:||11.70 miles / 18.80 km (Melakwa, Lower Tuscohatchie, and Pratt lakes via the Melakwa Lake trailhead)
12.20 miles / 19.60 km (Pratt, Lower Tuscohatchie, and Melakwa lakes via the Pratt Lake trailhead)
|Required Pass:||Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for national recreation sites
|Additional Trail Info:||Directions, general conditions, trip reports, etc.
Lying along a trail between Melakwa Lake and Pratt Lake, Lower Tuscohatchie Lake is the lake on the way to somewhere else or just beyond the comfortable reaches of more popular hiking destinations. Nevertheless, its solitude and setting beneath a ridge of five peaks renders it a worthy objective itself. The trail passes through pleasant woodland with generous views opening up the mountain ridge and down the Pratt River Valley. This profile portrays the trail’s progress from the headwaters of the Pratt River at Melakwa Lake down approximately 2.90 miles/4.70 km to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake and on a half mile/0.80 km to Pratt Lake, a total round trip of 11.70 miles/18.80 km via the Melakwa Lake trailhead. It can easily be reversed by taking the trail from the north end of Pratt Lake, for a total round-trip distance of 12.20 miles/19.60 km via the Pratt Lake trailhead. With transportation arranged between trailheads, the Melakwa, Lower Tuscohatchie, and Pratt lake trails can also be hiked as a loop of approximately 10.75 miles/17.30 km.
From Melakwa Lake, the trail zigzags downward through open forest, seldom straying far from the lake waters’ busy chatter as they transform themselves into the fledgling Pratt River. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Above, Kaleetan Peak’s rock-strewn ramparts tower beyond the treetops. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Jumbled heaps of boulders part the forest along the trail’s upper reaches, although it is consistently rocky throughout much of its distance. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Atop the trailside boulders, look for tiny groves of lichens (here, likely toy soldiers, Cladonia bellidiflora). Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Several rivulets crisscross the trail above Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, especially during the early season snowmelt, but can be traversed with a minimum of moistening by skipping across a few well-placed stones. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, June 05, 2016.
Low Mountain and Tusk O’Granite Mountain form Lower Tuscohatchie Lake’s southeastern backdrop. The lake’s larger sister, Upper Tuscohatchie Lake, lies in the cleft between the two mountains. Tusk O’Granite Mountain is named for its position between the lakes Tuscohatchie and Granite Mountain. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
The lake’s southern shore affords a placid view of Kaleetan, Chair, and Bryant peaks. Melakwa Lake and the trail’s eastern end lie between Kaleetan and Chair peaks. Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, June 05, 2016.
Sun-bleached skeletons still arch gracefully above the lakeside. Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Like pallid starbursts, blooms of the fringed pinesap (Pleuricospora fimbriolata), a leafless – and often stemless – plant species that draws nutrients from fungi in the soil, cluster on the forest floor beside the lake. Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
A reclining sun gilds the logs that litter the lake bed. Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 03, 2014.
Near the lake’s outlet to Tuscohatchie Creek, another trail branches northward to Windy Lake and Kaleetan Lake. The main trail continues from the outlet westward to Pratt Lake. Upon leaving the lake, the chatter of cascading waters again greets the ear, first those of Tuscohatchie Creek and soon those of Pratt Lake‘s creek as they rush to mingle in the Pratt River.
Beyond the lake, sweeping views open. To the northeast, a ridge of five peaks rises: Kaleetan Peak (which includes the two leftmost “peaks”), Chair Peak (which includes the next two “peaks”), Bryant Peak, Hemlock Peak, and The Tooth. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 10, 2014.
To the northwest, the Pratt River Valley stretches toward the horizon, fringed by willowy blooms of fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 10, 2014.
Wildflowers are especially abundant along the trail in the early spring and continuing through summer, including sharptooth, or, Lyall’s angelicas (Angelica arguta) (top left), Hooker’s fairy bells (Prosartes hookeri) (center left), salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) (center), Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum) (lower left), pinesaps (Monotropa hypopitys a.k.a. Hypopitys monotropa) (lower center), and white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala) (right). Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, June 05, 2016 and August 03, 2014.
As forest again encloses the trail, Pratt Lake lies just beyond. Melakwa – Pratt Lake Traverse, August 10, 2014.