Lake Lillian - Rampart Lakes
What a difference a week makes! Last Saturday I was
melting in the heat even with a 6:10 am start. This Saturday was a little
different. It was 45 degrees at Snoqualmie Pass as we drove over. This trail
is one I have been meaning to hike for years. I have been to the first Rampart
Lake via the Rachel Lake Trail. I have been to Twin Lakes via the normal Lake
Lillian Trail. I had never done the middle part. The road to the start is
overgrown and I managed to scratch paint off my car. That's why my mountain
car is a nine year old Subaru. One car was at the trailhead. It was a bit
We hopped over the berm and the road quickly turned into a narrow path.
This would be a wet trail if it had been raining. Fortunately the brush was
dry and so were we. After crossing the creek the route became much steeper.
This is not a bad route but it is steep. It gains about 1000' to Lake Lillian
in less than .90 miles. There is a nice waterfall just off the route about
half way up.
I missed the intersection with the spur to Lake Laura. I headed off towards
Laura. Suzanne noticed and directed me back on the correct trail. In 35 minutes
we were at Lake Lillian. Low clouds hung down over the lake. We could just
see the ridge behind. The route scrambles over a sloping rock above the lake
then drops down to a lakeside route. We met two couples here. A marmot was
whistling a warning as we approached. That was the first of many marmots
we were to see.
The route split with the right trail going steeply up towards the ridge.
This is the way we went. It turns out that the lower route also has a spur
which goes up to the ridge top. Most of the climb was moderately steep but
it was much steeper near the top. This would not be fun if it were muddy.
At the top we could see Mt. Margaret and even Lake Keechelus far below. The
ridge route is just that. For the most part we stayed on or just below the
We came to a 4 way intersection. Left dropped back down to Lillian. Right
dropped down to the basin below. We went straight ahead. Quickly I was at
the high point along the ridge. Traversing below the ridge looked reasonable
but I could not see if the route continued. Below in the basin were several
small lakes and a very obvious route. That's where we decided to go. Rather
than back tracking to the trail down we dropped straight down the slope to
the lake below.
It was steep but not too bad. At the lake Sadie took the second of a dozen
or so swims for the day. The route climbed to another small lake then climbed
up to a rocky pass above. A marmot sat on a big boulder at the pass acting
like a sentinel. The weather had been improving and we had a little blue sky
now. Great views from the pass. Rampart Lakes sat below us with Alta and
Hibox Mountains in the background. Some crest peaks were in the clear and
some still in the clouds.
We headed on down but could not find a trail. The gully just below the pass
was still snowy but mostly it was bare dirt and rock. Staying left of the
gully took us to a heather flat and a very steep drop from there. Heading
back to the right side of the gully we picked up an obvious route. It was
steep but not a bad way to lose 500' very fast. We passed three more guys
coming up from the Rachel Lake trailhead.
Down at the lake it was almost pleasant. Still a little chilly with some
wind but that combo did keep the bugs from being a problem all day. There
were more people at the lakes though still not much of a crowd. We had lunch
then headed down to the other lakes. At about the point I had reached via
Rachel we called it a day. Suzanne needed to be back in Seattle and the trail
ahead we have both done many times.
We climbed back up the 500' to the pass and dropped back down the other
side. Flowers were minimal though the meadows were very nice. We followed
the trail down farther then up to the 4 way intersection on the ridge top.
We chose to follow our route back rather than try the other trail down to
Lillian. Back at Lillian Sadie had another swim and we started down the trail.
This time we took the spur over to Lake Laura. There is quite a waterfall
coming out of Lake Lillian that is visible from Laura.
We returned to the main trail just in time to meet up with the two couples
we saw at Lake Lillian in the morning. Less than 30 minutes later we were
back at the car. This was a nice trip for a day when we had to be back in
town by late afternoon and the high peaks were partly in the clouds. This
is a short trail to Lake Lillian but not an easy one. For the day we hiked
only 6 miles round trip but gained 3500'. Nearly 1200' per mile and few switchbacks
can be a rough day for your knees.