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Pratt Lake Saddle

Our Hiking Time: 5h 45m
Total Ascent: 2200ft
Highest Point: 4500ft
Total Distance: 8 miles
Location: N 47° 25.4880, W 121° 30.7740
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoAfter 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 pratt lake saddle hikingwithmybrotherLakes 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 Olallie 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.

Finding the trail fairly well-broken and friendly, we moved quickly and passed a number of groups on the trail. The more people we passed, however, the rougher the snowshoe path became, until we caught up to the gentleman who had done us all a favor by blazing the way. Naturally, after all the work he had done, we offered to take our turn at cutting a path to the Saddle.

It was slow going, but we managed to cover a great deal of ground despite sinking up to our pratt lake saddle hikingwithmybrotherthighs in deep powder and taking slow, deliberate steps. When the groups we had passed caught up with us, we initially let them by to give them a turn at breaking the trail. But we soon suggested that they employ the same technique Jer and I had been using: go until you’re winded, then tap out and let the next person in line take over. Only now, instead of just two, we would have six bodies to do the work. After everyone had a turn at the front of the train, the benefits of working together became an unspoken truth, and our team forged ahead with a minimum of problems along the way.

Just before the Saddle, the trail opens into a talus field to reveal a stunning view of Mt. Rainier presiding over a snow-covered Olallie 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 pratt lake saddle olallie lake hikingwithmybrothercamaraderie, 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.

To get to the trailhead, take I-90 out to Exit 47. Take a left over the freeway to the “T.” Signs point left to the Pratt Lake and Granite Mountain Trailhead. Follow them a quarter mile to the small parking lot. On busy days, cars line the short distance to the popular trailhead, so just find a spot and hit the trail. - Nathan

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Pratt Lake Saddle


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