Set off for an adventure that truly allows you to experience all the attributes of autumn. The subdued rays of the clouded sun are replaced by a brilliant spectrum of yellow and red leaves a you set off into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for a visual adventure. While Pratt Lake can be a bustling destination in the summer season, the autumn months offer a relief from the rowdy crowds, making it a great time for an overnight trip. On a fall weekend, it is possible to have the whole lake to yourself if you set out in the cooler fall season. Even the mosquitoes are vacationing elsewhere.

Set off from the Pratt Lake trailhead and start into the dark, mossy thicket of conifers. The trail cuts up away from I-90 in a set of stairs and switchbacks, quickly putting distance between you and the sounds of the highway. The trail winds through a forest of ferns, mossy rocks and trickling streams, slowly gaining altitude as it climbs up the base of Granite Mountain. Roughly one mile into the trail, the Granite Mountain Trail forks off to the right. Continue left, following the arrow towards Pratt Lake.

The Pratt Lake trail climbs slowly but steadily for three miles, cutting over several trickling streams and spectacular granite stair-stepped waterfalls. Continue through the forest, paralleling I-90 until it turns inward to follow the folds of the mountain, towards Talapus Lake. Here the trail is wide, lined with huckleberries and a few vine maple. Every so often the mellow climb is punctuated by a set of climbing switchbacks or narrow boardwalk bridges. After about 3.5 miles there is sign indicating turnoff for Talapus Lake and Talapus Lake Trailhead. Continue straight to stay on the Pratt Lake Trail. Soon you will enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, cutting across a forest of alder to reach a clearing offering views of Talapus Lake and—if you’re lucky—Mt. Rainer peeking over the Cascades. Here you’ll also catch your first glimpse of the talus slopes adorned with fiery fall foliage as you make your way to the saddle that separates the Pratt Lake Basin from Talapus and Olalie.

Continue until the trail forks, offering a decision between Island Lake or Pratt Lake. Take a right to continue along the Pratt Lake trail. As you descend in switchbacks down the forested slope, you can snatch a glimpse of Pratt Lake within the basin. The trail cuts left around the lake, descending through deciduous foliage and talus slopes as it finally wraps down into the basin. Make sure to taste some sweet late-season huckleberries as you make your way across a small forested plateau filled to the brim with huckleberry bushes. Follow the trail as it cuts out once again across a talus field, offering you a spectacular view of Pratt Lake, speckled with reflections of the autumn colors. The campsites and toilet are located at the far end of the lake.

Season: Autumn
Length: 6 miles (each way)
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Variety: Out and Back
Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
Highest Point: 4100 feet
Maps: Green Trails Bandera No. 206, Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass No. 207
Open to: hikers, dogs
Passes and permits required: NW Forest Pass


From I-90 East take Exit 47 (Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek Exit). Turn left to cross the freeway overpass. Take a second left at the end of the road. Continue along the gravel road until you reach the Pratt Lake-Granite Mountain parking area.

Leave a Reply