Pratt Lake

Trail Highlights:Lake views; mountain views; wildflowers
Round-trip Distance:12.70 miles / 20.50 km
Location:Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest,
Snoqualmie Pass / Snoqualmie Valley, Washington Central Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
  • From east- and westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 47
  • From Exit 47, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto Tinkham Road/Forest Road 55 (road name may not be posted)
  • Proceed 0.10 miles/0.16 km to intersection
  • Turn left onto Forest Road 9034, signed for Pratt Lake and the Granite Mountain Lookout
  • Proceed 0.30 miles/0.50 km to the parking lot
  • Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    U.S. Forest Service

    Waning sun illuminates lichen-clad boughs on the shore of Pratt Lake.
    Pratt Lake Trail,

    The trail to Pratt Lake climbs gradually through pleasant, evergreen woodland, crossing several chattering brooks before dropping into the large stony basin where the lake pools on the edge of the Pratt River Valley below.  Here and there, bird’s-eye views open to surrounding peaks and hollows.  The trail eventually loses the distant rush of Interstate 90 as it arcs northward and deeper into wilderness, as well as the majority of other hikers who turn upward for the popular summit of Granite Mountain after the first 1.00 mile/1.60 km.

    The trail rounds the lower flanks of Granite Mountain and its neighbor, Tusk O’Granite (or West Granite) Mountain, climbing moderately to the Pratt Saddle, the narrow ridge that connects them to Pratt Mountain, before descending steeply into the lake’s massive basin along the boulders of Pratt Mountain’s eastern slope.  The trail is part of a larger network that links many popular hiking destinations in the southwest corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Along the way, connecting trails branch to the summit of Granite Mountain, down to Talapus and Olallie lakes, beyond the Pratt Saddle to Island, Rainbow, and Mason lakes, and, past Pratt Lake, to Lower Tuscohatchie and Melakwa lakes, among other points more distant.  (At just 0.50 miles/0.80 km beyond Pratt Lake, Lower Tuscohatchie Lake is a worthy jaunt for a bit of solitude and impressive views.)

    During the brief alpine spring, a panoply of wildflowers populates the trailside, culminating in drifts that sweetly scent the air beside the lake.  In late spring and early summer, listen for the enchanting, piccolo-like calls of hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus) echoing along the trail and throughout the lake basin, punctuated by the mournful cries of varied thrushes (Ixoreus naevius), particularly in the evening as other birds fall silent.

    The Pratt Lake Trail begins at the base of Granite Mountain amid columns of conifers woven with lushly layered undergrowth. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    Numerous small streams patter across the trail throughout the year, some just downstream from charming waterfalls. However, even in winter they can usually be crossed dry-shod by skipping across the stones scattered through their midst. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    Shortly before the trail’s junction with the trail to Granite Mountain’s summit, it skirts the mountain’s avalanche chute, the treeless, debris-strewn swath of which is testament to the destructive power of a mountaintop of snow funneling down a narrow ravine. The trail is sometimes obscured by debris from the previous winter’s ravages, but it does not cross the chute; rather, it switchbacks sharply left shortly after entering the chute. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    Throughout the spring, summer, and autumn, mushrooms of varying sizes and other curious fungi add interest to the woodland floor about the trail. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    At approximately 4.20 miles/6.70 km from the trailhead, the forest opens to a glimpse of Olallie Lake and, on a clear day, Mt. Rainier. (The viewpoint is sometimes called the Olallie Lake Lookout, although it is nothing other than a short section of trail from which the lake is visible.) 0.25 miles/0.40 km farther, the trail reaches the Pratt Saddle, where it branches again, left to Island and Rainbow lakes, and right, down to Pratt Lake on the other side. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    In winter, the Olallie Lake Lookout is a worthy hiking or snowshoeing destination itself, with a round-trip distance of approximately 8.30 miles/13.40 km. Few venture beyond the lookout in winter, as snow deepens considerably on the Pratt Saddle and in the basin on its opposite side. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    As the trail descends into the lake basin, it picks its way across several massive boulderfields strewn across the flanks of Mount Pratt, where the view opens to Kaleetan Peak’s distinctive spire on the horizon. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    After many peekaboo glimpses from the Pratt Saddle, Pratt Lake finally comes into view pooled in a stony basin above the Pratt River Valley. Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    Stones invite lakeside seating at the far end of Pratt Lake. Here, the view reaches back over the route taken, with the Pratt Saddle seen as the notch on the left horizon and Pratt Mountain rising in the center. While this is a worthy turnaround point, the hike can be lengthened by continuing on the Melakwa — Pratt Lake Traverse an additional 0.50 miles/0.80 km to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake or even 2.90 miles/4.67 km to Melakwa Lake. For both, follow signage for “Main Trail” and “Melakwa Lake.” Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.
    A wealth of wildflowers populates the trailside and lakeshore, including first column on left, top to bottom, Columbia lilies (Lilium columbianum), western starflowers (Lysimachia latifolia), broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius var. subalpinus), red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa), American twinflowers (Linnaea borealis), and Sitka valerians (Valeriana sitchensis); second column, white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala), western Canada goldenrod (Solidago lepida), Cooley’s hedge-nettles (Stachys cooleyae), thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), giant mountain asters (Canadanthus modestus), and wood roses (Rosa gymnocarpa); third column, Sitka mountain ash (Sorbus sitchensis), heartleaf twayblades (Neottia cordata), western bunchberries (Cornus unalaschkensis), and Cascade Oregon-grapes (Berberis nervosa); fourth column, two-leaved false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum dilatatum), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), cut-leaved foamflowers (Tiarella trifoliata), and edible thistles (Cirsium edule); fifth column, stink currants (Ribes bracteosum), gnome plants (Hemitomes congestum), salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis), and tall bluebells (Mertensia paniculata; sixth column, fringecups (Tellima grandiflora), fool’s-huckleberries (Rhododendron menziesii), queen’s cups (Clintonia uniflora), and pinesaps (Monotropa hypopitys syn. Hypopitys monotropa); seventh column, Pacific coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza mertensiana), spotted coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza maculata), and slender bog orchids (Platanthera stricta); eighth column, common self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), western, or, Sitka columbines (Aquilegia formosa), Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa), salal (Gaultheria shallon), and woodland pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea); ninth column, liverleaf wintergreens (Pryola asarifolia), green-flowered wintergreens (Pyrola chlorantha), plumed false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum racemosum), evergreen violets (Viola sempervirens), and sylvan goatsbeards (Aruncus dioicus); and, tenth column, common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), large mountain monkeyflowers (Erythranthe tilingii), woodland beardtongues (Nothochelone nemorosa), rosy twisted-stalks (Streptopus lanceolatus), and Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum). Pratt Lake Trail, Washington.

    © 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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