10 miles round trip / 2000′ elevation gain
With the warmer temperatures in Seattle the last few weeks, I was ready to plan a hike that ended with a swim. Rainbow Lake sounded like the perfect destination for a hot day in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike our usual early morning hiking routine, my husband and I didn’t leave the city until after 11:00am. Our hopes were that we would arrive at the trailhead as early morning hikers were finishing up. As our car climbed its way up the forest road nearing the end, we became nervous after seeing the many cars parked alongside. We lucked out as we had hoped and grabbed a parking spot near the trailhead as a few hikers made their way out.
The beginning of the trail was packed with day hikers and backpackers. The well constructed trail makes its’ way into the Snoqualmie Pass area gently climbing upwards. After a very short distance Talapus Lake comes into view. Shortly thereafter, the path begins to make its’ way around Olallie Lake. As the trail swings around the north end of the lake, Mount Rainier can be seen in the distance behind the mountain ridgeline.
The farther and higher we climbed into the wilderness the less crowded it became. After we hooked around Olallie Lake we began to hike along the side of Pratt Mountain. At this point we met a park ranger who explained that she had seen a few campers and fishermen at Rainbow Lake. We were happy to hear her say our destination was a good choice because of the small crowds that day. After a little more upward trekking, the trail came to a point where we would breakaway and finally hike down towards the lake. After over three hours of hiking we were more than happy to find ourselves completely alone at Rainbow Lake!
We found a great waterfront location for a late afternoon picnic. After refueling we were very excited to quickly change into our bathing suits. After the hot, exhaustive hike we were ready to cool off in the cold mountain waters. As we jumped into the frigid waters we were instantly cooled. It wasn’t long before we were too cold and we found ourselves drying off in the warm summer sun on the lakeside rocks. The sun shined down from a cloudless sky warming our bodies and drying our clothes. After changing back into our dry clothes we lingered alongside the lake as long as time allowed. Knowing sunset was closing in, we headed back towards the trailhead around 5:00 pm.
We were sad to leave the solitude behind, but pleased to find our journey back down the trail was quiet and peaceful as well. We had very few encounters with any other hikers commenting to each other that we must be the last ones to leave. We welcomed the downhill trek and the cooler temperatures in the shade of the forest. Just as twilight was setting in, the parking lot came into view. As we left the wilderness behind we felt relaxed and replenished.