Hike description: This hike starts out in the trees, but breaks out into subalpine meadows with wild flowers. At a signed junction, the trail goes left. (The Bandera Mountain trail goes straight up the mountain at this point.) After a short climb, the trail leaves the meadows and drops down into the trees again and pretty Mason Lake. In 2004, this new trail was opened and dedicated to Ira Spring, an avid photographer and hiker who worked to make more of the wilderness accessible to more people. The new trail replaced a steep one that crossed an incredible boulder field. Think about that as you huff and puff to lunch by the lake. You really do have it easy with the new trail.
To continue on to Rainbow Lake, follow the trail around the northeast side of Mason Lake to a junction. The left branch goes to Mount Defiance. Take the right branch signed Pratt Lake. The trail climbs steeply up and around a ridge and drops back down. In a short distance, the trail passes a small, unnamed lake. Continue on less than a mile to Rainbow Lake. The trail bypasses the lake, but there are way trails that will take you to the shoreline and beautiful lunch spots with a view of the lake and Bandera Mountain. The total distance from Mason Lake to Rainbow Lake is a little over one mile.
Directions: Drive Interstate 90 east to Exit 45 (Bandera Air Field). Go off freeway and under it, then straight ahead on Forest Service Road 9030. At a split in one mile, go straight ahead on Road 9031. The trailhead is 3.8 miles from I-90.
Difficulty rating: 4 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
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Miles round-trip: 10
Elevation: 2,900 feet
Best time of year: June to November
Map: Green Trails 206 Bandera
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
Also: The area can be crowded on weekends, but is quiet during the week. There is a vault toilet at the trailhead. Always carry the 10 Essentials so you are prepared for the unexpected. Pack out all of your trash and any stray trash you find along the way.
Info: For road and trail details, contact Snoqualmie Ranger District North Bend Office, 425-888-1421, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website: www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs; “Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region” and “100 Hikes in Washington’s Alpine Lakes,” both Mountaineers Books.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.theolympian.com/hiking.