The 11-mile round-trip trek to Pratt Lake travels through beautiful scenery and up gentle elevation gains to the stunning alpine pool; a great day hike for those looking for a moderate challenge, or a family-friendly backpacking trip if you have a little more time on your hands.
What Makes It Great
There are so many great hikes in the I-90 corridor, but this one is a true Cascade Classic. And, only a 45-minute drive away, it is practically right in Seattle’s backyard.
Start the trip from the Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain Trailhead, which is one of the gateways to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It begins as a well-worn, wide path through thick coniferous forest. While it is likely to be crowded (especially in the summer), take heart that the groups of people tend to disperse the further along you go.
About a mile in, keep left as you pass the turnoff for the trail to Granite Mountain. The route then gently ascends around the mountain’s base for the next three miles, at times punctuated with stairs, switchbacks, and stream crossings via boardwalk bridges. You’ll also occasionally catch glimpses of the surrounding Cascade Mountains through the trees.
The trial then intersects with the Talapus Lake Cutoff, which goes to both Talapus and, further on, Olallie Lake. Stay right and keep climbing. Soon after, the path brings you to an open talus field and then you’ll reach the 4,200-foot ridge: the highest point of the trip. Take a breather and enjoy the view of Mount Rainier above you, Olallie Lake below, and Pratt and Bandera Mountain on either side.
You’ll then lose all that hard-earned elevation as you switchback down into the forests on other side. After encountering some more talus, there is a short section of marshland – you may want to move quickly through here, because it can be buggy. Then, another talus field that looks onto your final destination: the shimmering Lake Pratt.
The Lake Pratt campground is less than a mile further. Staying the night here also enables some other fun backcountry excursions like the hike to Lower Tuschohatchie Lake, just 0.6-miles away, or Melakwa Lake, which adds six miles round-trip.
If you want to make even more of an adventure out of it, take two cars and do the grand five-lake linkup: Tallapus to Ollalie to Pratt to Lower Tushchohatichie to Melakwa, then exit the wilderness via the Denny Creek Trail.
Who is Going to Love It
Because of its relatively gentle grade, this is a perfect moderate challenge for families and newer hikers or backpackers.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Get off I-90 exit 47, turn left to drive over the highway, then turn left again at the T. This will take you to the designated Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain parking area.
If you decide to do the five-lake linkup, leave a car at the Denny Creek Trailhead. To get there, take exit 47 and turn left to drive over the highway, but then turn right onto Forest Road 58. After crossing under the freeway, continue 2.4 miles and take a left just after the Denny Creek Campground. Pass the Franklin Falls Trailhead, cross a bridge, and continue 0.2 miles to the trailhead.