Rainbow Lake

A clear day in November. I had to get out. A summit with great views would be good. How about a lake with fresh snow around it and no summit crowds? I hike to Rainbow Lake near Snoqualmie Pass almost every year. Here we are in November and I had not been there yet. Soon snow will make it very difficult. Rainbow Lake it is. I got out of town at 7:15 am. By 8:15 am I was off I-90 and into the Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain Trails parking lot. The lot was about half full. It was just about 40 degrees as I packed up and headed out. While the sky was clear above there was fog in the SF Snoqualmie Valley. I was past it at the trailhead but as I hiked back west I was in the cloud. It was chilly but there was almost no wind all day long.

On the hike in I passed a lone runner coming out and a guy with a dog coming out just before I reached Rainbow Lake. That was it. I am sure that the trail up Granite Mountain was much more crowded. Just before the three mile mark the snow began. It was quite slick on the long boardwalk. It was much less slick on the ground. I made good though not great time on the way up. The snow provided some photo opportunities. At the four mile mark is the view down to Olallie Lake and out to Mt. Rainier. Trees are rapidly closing the view. Rainier was in the clear though there were low clouds in the foreground. It was 34 degrees here. I soon reached the Defiance/Pratt junction and stayed left on the Defiance Trail. The trail narrows as it works it's way around Pratt Mountain. Some spots are in the open and sunshine really warmed me up.

Snow was continuous except for a few short forested sections. It was 2-4 inches deep. Not enough to require traction devices but enough to highlight the trees and bushes. I did stop to put on gaiters to keep my pants legs dry. From the high point the trail drops into the valley of Rainbow, Island, and Blazer Lakes. I had one good view over to Mt. Defiance. The trail is a bit rocky through here and snow just covered the rocks. It was a little hard to see which steps were solid. Continuing down I reached the junction with the trail to Island Lake. No footprints since the snow fell. Just past here I met the guy with his golden retriever. The young dog had never seen snow before and was going a little crazy in a good way.

Right before 10:00 am I reached Rainbow Lake. A few inches of fresh snow covered most everything. Half the lake was frozen and the other half was almost there.  An open spot reflected the snow covered trees surrounding the lake.  The sun was shining, there was almost no wind, and I was happy to be here. For the next hour I just enjoyed the lake. The rocks of Pratt Mountain were now white snowy dots. The sunshine actually felt warm. I put on a light jacket but never reached for my puffy layer. It might be only about 40 degrees but it was not all that cold.

I did not see anyone at the lake but after a while I could hear several folks speaking Russian. That was it. Much more solitude than in the summer. At 12:00 pm I paced up and headed back. On the climb out of the valley I met a group of 6 or 7 folks hiking in. That was the only group seen all day with more than two people. I saw small groups occasionally on the hike out. There were long gaps in between. It might have been a very sunny day but it is November and it would be dark just after 5:00 pm. In the two to three miles up section there were more thin low clouds. Sun shining through it provided visible sun rays in the trees. I slowed way down taking a number of these photos. Some of the best views of the day.

Even after meeting the Granite Mountain Trail there was no pickup in the crowds. Nobody ever passed my in my direction all day long. I reached the trailhead at 2:30 pm. I took about 2:40 going up and 2:30 coming down. For the day I hiked 11 miles with 2900' of elevation gain. While I gained almost 3000' of elevation, the trail is never very steep. Just a long steady climb then a descent to the lake. It was a balmy 47 degrees back at my car.

This proved to be an excellent hike for this day. There were only two sets of footprints in the snow on the way in. I saw both of those people. Fresh snow lit up the trail. Once out of the forest the sunshine was warming and cheery. We do not get a lot of it in the winter. A dry November day is great but a sunny one on a weekend is a rare treat. The whole hike was a whole lot of fun.

Lots Of Running Water
Sun Shines Through Fog
Cascading Creek
Another Creek
Lots Of Green
Frosted Boardwalk
Snowy Trail
Cold & Frosty
Mt. Rainier
Rainier & Olallie Lake
Narrow Trail
Island Lake
Snowy Talus Field
Mt. Defiance
Descending To Lake
Approaching Lake
At Rainbow Lake
Pratt Mountain
Relaxing At Lake
Broken Ice
Lunch Spot
Half Frozen
Still Foggy Below
Heading Back
Mountain Ash
Olallie Lake Again
Sun Rays In The Trees
And Another
Best One
Sun & Shade
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018