Melakwa - Pratt Lakes Loop

Gary was free and we had a few good trips to choose from. The forecast deteriorated a little and a chance of thundershowers was added for east of the Cascade Crest. We decided that a lower elevation trip on the west side made more sense. I suggested a favorite that I seem to hike every half dozen years or so. This loop trip goes up Denny Creek to Melakwa Lakes then drops to Lower Tuscohatchie  Lake, goes to Pratt Lake, and finishes at the Pratt Lake Trailhead. The Denny Creek Trailhead is only a short drive away. Since this trip is close in putting a car at each end is no problem. My last time on this loop was in 2013. Both ends of the loop are popular trails so we chose to start early to avoid crowds at Melakwa Lake. We met at the Pratt Lake Trailhead at 6:40 am. We then headed to Denny Creek. That lot was nearly full. We packed up and were on the trail at 7:01 am.

Repaving is going on 160' above the trail on the Denny Creek Viaduct on I-90. A rope hangs down to the trail with a sign attached warning about the danger of things falling. Gary suggested climbing the rope but thought better of it. We reached the bathing rock slabs to find some folks there already. The creek is very low. It was an easy rock hop. This is a pretty rocky trail above the creek crossing and we were glad to be going up it but not down. We continued up to the second creek crossing. On the drive up low clouds blocked out peaks along the highway. We were now climbing into those clouds.

A group of guys sped past us and a single woman was already coming down. Otherwise, we had a lot of solitude hiking up to Melakwa Lakes. We climbed above the clouds as they were burning off. We arrived at Lower Melakwa Lake at 9:14 am. There was a tent in sight on the other side of the lake. That was it. In a few hours this spot would be crowded with hikers. We took some photos and headed up to the upper lake for a longer break. There was a group camping there too. Although there was a cloud of bugs we were able to sit by the shore and have little problems with them. All day long we never pulled out the bug spray or even put on long sleeves and we had some very long breaks at lakes. We saw one guy go by with an ice axe. He continued up towards Melakwa Pass. Solitude at the upper lake was unexpected. One big benefit of an early start.

Our break went on for about 45 minutes. We had a pretty long trip but had plenty of time to sit back and enjoy. Great views from the lake. It was still cool but almost perfect in the sunshine. At 10:15 am we started back to the lower lake. There were a couple guys there now. We dropped down the trail and quickly reached the junction. This is the infamous spot where folks take the lower trail instead of heading back up to Hemlock Pass and back to the Denny Creek Trailhead. Often it is on snow but folks make this mistake on bare trail too. The section over to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake is not often hiked. The lakes are the attraction and this is just a forested trail. Much to my surprise we saw a single guy and a couple on this section. There were a couple good sized trees to climb over across the trail but otherwise the trail is in good shape.

We arrived at Lower Tuscohatchie Lake at 11:48 am, just in time for lunch. We found a spot right on the shore and in the shade. Bugs were no problem. I could have spent the whole day there. We did take a long break. This point is near the middle of the route. We still had half the distance to hike but only one more uphill section. 2:03 later we were ready to pack up and continue on. So far we had spent 2 3/4 hours sitting at lakes. Not a bad way to spend a summer day. We passed the Kaleetan Lake Trail and stopped at the bigger outlet for photos down the lake. That spot also has great views of Kaleetan and Chair Peaks and more summits. The hike over to Pratt Lake is fairly short. About 23 minutes later we were at Pratt Lake. I suggested we check out the start of the Pratt River Trail. In 2013 I hiked all the way down to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. The trail has been abandoned for more than half a century and requires a bit of route finding.

We crossed the outlet and went a quarter mile down the trail. There were a lot of folks camped at Pratt Lake. Not surprising for a summer weekend. We did not stay long. Soon we were heading along the trail up the lake. This is one of the few spots out of forest on this route. It was a bit toasty but not as hot as most recent week trips. At the end of the lake the route continues in forest before beginning the 600' climb up to the ridge top. We met another group of backpackers coming in. From the ridge top we dropped down to the old 4 mile marker. It is not there any longer but there is a view of Olallie Lake. The view used to be open to the lake with Mt. Rainier right above. Trees have grown up to block much of the view. There is still a small view but it is rapidly disappearing.

The last four miles went by quickly. With all the breaks and good trails my legs were not as tired as expected on a long day trip. We saw some more folks but there were long breaks in between. Other than at Lower Tuscohatchie and Pratt Lakes we did not see a lot of folks. Perhaps the middling weather forecast or the Blue Angels practice routine over Lake Washington kept folks away. Our early start helped on the hike up to Melakwa Lakes. Overall, we had a lot more solitude than I expected. We made it back to the Pratt Lake Trailhead at 5:39 pm. A short easy drive took us back to my car at the Denny Creek Trailhead. Most every spot possible had a car at Denny Creek. That included the new Franklin Falls Trail parking lot. We did not look into that lot but cars stuck out at the entrance.

For the day we hiked 14.2 miles with 3500' of elevation gain. Substantial numbers but as I mentioned earlier I was not nearly as tired as I should have been. Trip reports from east of the crest do mention thunder and lightening in the afternoon. We had none at all. We were pleased to have chosen this as a compromise route. The weather overhead was just about perfect. The bugs were not a problem. The crowds were not seen on the trail. It's hard to have a better day on the trail and at the lakes.

Bathing Rocks
A Little Brushy
Keekwulee Falls
Entering Clouds
Almost Above Clouds
Lower Melakwa Lake
Heading Up Lake
A Few Bugs
Melakwa Reflection
Back To Lower Lake
Chair Peak
On To Tuscohatchie
Slime Mold
Smags & Ridge
Big Log Down
Big Tree
Tuscohatchie View
Kaleetan Peak
Peaks Over Lake
Kaleetan Again
Pratt River Valley
Gary On The Rocks
Pratt Lake Reflection
Pratt Lake
Brush Along Trail
Trail Through Talus
Interesting Clouds
Olallie Lake
Another Saprophyte
Panorama Shot From Our Lunch Spot At Lower Tuscohatchie Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018