Rainy Lake is on the edge of what I would call “Local Adventures” as it is a very long drive for nearly everyone. For us, it was over 150 miles one way. We made it a whole day and stopped at a number of places. We also used the day as a homeschooling field trip, and worked in geology, geography, science and the outdoors.
Rainy Pass is a very popular place, for how remote it is, mostly due to the hikes at it. It is home to Heather Pass, Maple Pass Loop, Lake Ann and out by the highway you can access the PCT. And there is Rainy Lake. The parking lot is often overfilled, even on weekdays. Don’t assume it is full, drive through first, as there are many spots. It does require a NW Forest Pass, or an America The Beautiful Pass. You can also fill out an envelope and put $5 in it at a couple kiosks. If no space, people do park along the road, and along Hwy 20, or even across the highway.
To find the trailhead wander the road/maze of parking lot sidewalks till you see the sign for “Lake Trail”. The trail is paved, and is wheelchair and stroller friendly. It is also leashed dog friendly. You will pass a trail to the right behind the last kiosk, that goes to Heather Pass. Stay straight ahead.
In fall the trail is often in the shadows, and can be chilly, even if the day is warm.
The trail winds gently through the woods, and the sound of cars on Hwy 20 slowly diminishes. The trail crosses two bridges, one over a tiny trickle, the second is over a faster stream doing falls. If memory holds right, the second is the outlet from Lake Ann.
Rainy Lake and golden Larches up high.
It snowed last weekend up high, and the Fall colors have started.
The whole ridge above the lake was lit up for Fall.
Looking across the lake, to the cold ridges up high. The lake is very clear and home to fish.
Pano of the lake. I couldn’t get it all due to the trees to the far right.
The boys in the woods, just before the lake.
The last time I had been to Rainy Lake was in early 2004, when snow still hung on. I have this one photo and zero memory of hiking the trail, but apparently I did, during a long drive over the passes, we stopped and stretched our legs on it.
The hike went quickly, hiking late in the afternoon we didn’t pass anyone hiking in. The boys made it a game to count that this trail has 9 park benches along it. To the truck and back was about 2 miles. Give yourself an hour, so you can sit and enjoy the lake if it isn’t crowded.
We visited Washington Pass Overlook (no permits or passes needed) a few miles up the highway.
The views of Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires were in full blinding sun, but the other ridges across the deep valley below were perfect to stare at. The Larches were turning golden, and in some areas at the top was fresh snow dusted, from last weekend.
The drive down the sun was slipping quickly in the Fall, but we made a last stop at the lookout above Diablo Lake.
The sun was about to set behind the peaks, the view of the lake was pleasant if you hid in the trees to diffuse the low slung sun.
We coasted into the lowlands as the final color of the sky went dark. The smoke from California wild fires is returning to make the sun red again.