The 6.5-mile round-trip hike along the Ira Spring Trail to Mason Lake is an aesthetic, formidable trek befitting the mountaineering photographer for which the trail was named. After climbing 2,100 feet over the first two miles to a rocky crest, the route then drops down the other side to the scenic lake, which is a popular camping destination.
What Makes It Great
From the trailhead, the hike weaves through forests and a few switchbacks for 0.8 miles, until it crosses Mason Creek. This crossing is normally mellow, but high waters can make it more challenging at times. 1.6 miles from the trailhead is a junction: stay left and then brace yourself for the real climb, as the trail shoots up above the tree line. Just when you begin to question whether the hike is worth the pain, the trail levels out, ascending just a few more switchbacks and then through an alpine meadow with seasonal wildflowers. Stay left at the junction with the Bandera Mountain Trail. 2.9 miles from the trailhead, you’ll reach the high point at 4,320 feet, with glorious mountain views of the I-90 corridor. After it crests, the trail drops 300 feet down the other side of the ridge, crosses the Mason Lake outflow, and continues to the lake’s shores. Mason Lake may look relatively small but, if you’re so inclined, bring your fishing pole because it is still home to many trout. Continue along the west and north banks of the lake to reach the designated camping areas. If you want to get in a bit more mileage (and a lot more uphill climbing), continue on to the summit of Mt. Defiance. From Mason Lake, follow the trail along the north bank to the junction with the Mt. Defiance Trail. Take this for 1.3-miles until it reaches a spur. Continue up the steep spur trail for 0.2-miles to the 5,584-foot summit.It is a perfect way to honor the late Ira Spring, who, in addition to being a prominent landscape photographer and outdoorsman, co-founded the Washington Trails Association (WTA). This organization continues to be a vital trail advocacy and maintenance group. To find out more about this Pacific Northwest icon, read Spring’s delightfully named autobiography, An Ice Axe, a Camera, and a Jar of Peanut Butter.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers who are looking for something moderately strenuous daytrip, or for a weekend camping excursion that includes a good workout before pitching the tent.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Take I-90 to exit 45, and then turn left to cross under the highway and then stay left onto Forest Road 9030. About a mile down, stay left at the fork to take Mason Lake Road/Forest Road 9031. Park in the lot at the end of this road.
There is a restroom, but no water, available at the trailhead.