Set off on an adventure to two gorgeous lakes situated in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. While the Pratt Lake Trail can be a bustling hiker highway during the summer, the late fall and early winter are great seasons to catch this route when it’s empty and awaiting the winter snows.

Set off from Granite Mountain Trailhead and follow the Pratt Lake Trail towards the forested base of Granite Mountain. Roughly one mile into the trail, take a left to follow the Pratt Lake Trail (take a right if you want to complete a quick summit of Granite Mountain before continuing onward). The Pratt Lake Trail winds around the base of several mountains, gradually gaining altitude as leads towards Talpus Lake. The trail passes through several trickling waterfalls, offering hikers scenic views of still forests brimming with huckleberries and a colorful spectrum of autumn foliage. Roughly 3 miles in, the trail intersects with the Talpus Lake trail. Continue straight to pass through an aspen forest adorned with goat’s beard moss. The trail opens up along a talus slope, offering views of Talpus Lake, brief glimpses of the Cascades, and—on a clear day—Mt. Rainier dutifully watching.

Island Lake ©Melissa Farage

The trail wraps around the lake basin, forking roughly 4 miles from the trailhead. Two signs spell out your choice: head to Pratt Lake or Island Lake. Take a left to head towards Island Lake, and you will be rewarded with a seemingly endless array of lakes to explore. Although the trail begins by winding around the alpine slopes of Pratt Mountain, it eventually passes by several lakes before ending at Mason Lake, leading to the Ira Spring Trail. Follow the trail upward in switchbacks as it climbs along Pratt Mountain. Eventually the trail opens up along a talus slope, winding downward into a lake basin adorned with huckleberries, small pines and brilliant fall foliage. Soon after the trail levels out you will come to a turnoff for Island Lake.

Island Lake ©Melissa Farage

Take a left to head towards Island Lake, climbing downwards towards a swampy plateau brimming with ponds. The trail climbs upward out of the swamp, wrapping around a forested ridge before dipping down into the Island Lake Basin. Explore this spectacular lake by following a network of small trails around half of the lake’s perimeter. Once you’ve soaked up the scenery, head back along the Island Lake Trail to the Ira Spring Trail.

This time take a right on the trail, following the sign towards Rainbow Lake. The trail extends through fields of huckleberries and pines, offering spectacular views of the surrounding alpine scenery. Because the trail continues onward, there are many side-trails that fork leftward to Rainbow Lake. Although it isn’t quite as spectacular as its Island Lake compatriot, Rainbow Lake makes a great location for lunch or an afternoon nap. If you have a little bit of energy left, you can continue along the trail for a quick summit of Mount Defiance.

Rainbow Lake ©Melissa Farage

Season: Autumn

Length: 7 miles (each way, both lakes)

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Variety: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Highest Point: 4400 feet

Maps: Green Trails Bandera No. 206

Open To: hikers, dogs

Passes and Permits Required: NW Forest Pass

 

Directions:
From I-90 take Exit 47 (Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek) and take a left to cross the overpass. Turn left at the end of the road, and follow the gravel road until its end at the well-marked Pratt Lake-Granite Mountain parking area.

Island Lake ©Melissa Farage
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