|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
After weeks of clouds and snow, bright sun and clear skies marked the first really good hiking weekend of the year. The much-anticipated break in the weather demanded that we take advantage of it with a hike that had some elevation and broad vistas. A trip out to Pratt Lake Saddle promised both. We got an early start and headed out to the Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain Trailhead.
The Pratt Lake Trail #1007 is one of the gateways into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and gives access to many lakes and peaks. As it begins, the trail is well-worn and wide, crossing small creeks and rivulets through pleasant stands of maturing firs and pines. Just over a mile into the trail, the junction for Granite Mountain Trail #1016 appears on your right. Continue onward for the first of the real elevation gain, skirting the slopes of Granite Mountain and occasionally catching glimpses of mountaintops through windows in the trees carved by streams and talus fields. Just past the three mile mark, the trail intersects with the Talapus Lake Cutoff #1039, offering access to the shores of both Talapus Lake and Ollalie Lake. At four miles we reached our destination: the 4,200ft ridge on the slopes of Pratt Mountain commonly referred to as the “Saddle.” From here the trail descends down to Pratt Lake before meeting up with the Melawka Lake Trail #1011.
Just before the Saddle, the trail opens into a talus field to reveal a stunning view of Mt. Rainier presiding over a snow-covered Ollalie Lake. All the effort it took to get to this panorama was well worth it – the scene is framed by Pratt Mountain on the right and Bandera Mountain on the left, while the nearby trees were coated with a thick white frosting of snow. It was the perfect setting to carve out a place in the snow to have some lunch and bask in the sun.
This was a great hike: rewarding views, some unexpected camaraderie, and a healthy dose of snowshoeing. The sunny weather brought out more folks than we expected, though the summer months will bring hundreds of hikers to this area. Try to find time to visit the Saddle and surrounding lakes before the mosquitoes and crowds make an appearance. Northwest Forest Pass is required.
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