From the trailhead, begin climbing west through mixed conifer forest. The trail zigzags up steep slopes as it passes a rock garden peppered with wildflowers and old growth ponderosa pines. After 1.2 miles, the terrain levels slightly, continuing northwest to Merritt Lake. (Watch for falling fir cones dropped by Douglas squirrels to stock their food caches.)
Views to the northeast of Nason Ridge appear around mile 1.5—look closely to find Alpine Lookout, an active fire tower rising from one of the ridge’s highpoints. The route continues to climb another mile to the southeast banks of Merritt Lake. You’ll find striking views of Nason Ridge’s rocky slopes encircling the lake basin. The final .6-mile stretch involves a scramble to ridgetop views overlooking Merritt Lake and a sea of Cascade Range peaks.
-Mapped by Alan Bauer, Alan Bauer Photography