From east- and westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 45
From Exit 45, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto Forest Road 9030 (road name may not be posted)
At 0.70 miles/1.10 km, stay left at the fork to proceed onto Forest Road 9031, as indicated by signage for the Ira Spring Trail
Proceed 3.60 miles/5.80 km to the parking lot at the end of the road
The pavement ends at 0.30 miles/0.50 km from the off-ramp and the remainder of the road is gravel and can be quite potholed
The Rainbow - Island Lakes Trail can also be accessed at its eastern junction with the Pratt Lake Trail. Follow directions to the Pratt Lake Trail and locate the junction at the Pratt Lake Saddle approximately 4.40 miles/7.10 km from the Pratt Lake trailhead, indicated by signage for Island Lake
Several lakes in the southwest corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, including Mason, Rainbow, and Island lakes, lie along the linked Ira Spring and Rainbow – Island Lakes trails that can be accessed from either end and by multiple trailheads. By whatever route, the trails traverse varied terrain that includes woodland, meadows, boulderfields, and, of course, the wilderness area’s namesake lakelands. Beyond the popular Mason Lake, the Ira Spring Trail connects to the much less travelled Rainbow – Island Lakes Trail, which offers a bit of backcountry quietude away from the crowds and the distant but constant rush of Interstate 90 that is common to many other trails along the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley.
The western route to Mason, Rainbow, and Island lakes via the Ira Spring Trail, profiled here, crosses Bandera Mountain‘s lower, southern flank before continuing around to the lakes on its west and north. In quiet forest scarcely 0.25 miles/0.40 km beyond Mason Lake, the Ira Spring Trail ends at its junction with the Rainbow – Island Lakes Trail and the Mount Defiance Trail. Per signage at the junction, the Rainbow – Island Lakes Trail continues east through dense forest to another clutch of lakes between Pratt Mountain and Bandera Mountain.
The lakes can also be accessed farther east from the trails to Talapus Lake and Pratt Lake by crossing the Pratt Mountain Saddle and visiting the lakes in reverse order via the Rainbow – Island Lakes Trail. From the Talapus Lake trailhead, the round-trip to and from Mason Lake is 8.70 miles/14.00 km; via the Pratt Lake trailhead, the round-trip distance to and from Mason Lake is just slightly longer at 9.20 miles/14.80 km.
The Ira Spring Trail is named in honor of Ira Spring, a local nature photographer, author of numerous hiking guides, and advocate of wilderness preservation through public access. At a time when many argued that nature could only be conserved in the isolation of restricted access, Ira Spring was a leader in the creation of the well-developed and -maintained trail system enjoyed throughout Washington today.
Upon passing Bandera Mountain, the Ira Spring Trail enters the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, set aside by Congress for preservation in its natural state with minimal human imprint. (“A wilderness . . . is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness Act of 1964). While signing the act creating the Alpine Lakes Wilderness – against stiff opposition – U.S. President Gerald Ford reportedly commented “Anywhere so beautiful should be preserved.” And so it is. This corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness especially exemplifies its name, dotted everywhere with mountain lakes, ponds, and bogs.