Backpacking Rampart & Rachel Lakes

I spent last weekend solo backpacking Rampart and Rachel Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness east of Snoqualmie Pass.  Here’s my trip report from Complete photo set at Flickr!

Rampart Lakes

At 5100 feet, Rampart Lakes, though a beautiful overnight destination for tenters, are not an easy destination for hammock campers. It took me nearly two hours to find a suitable spot to hang my hammock, but once I found it, oh…bliss! It’s not that there aren’t trees at Rampart Lakes, but mostly they are too small to support a hammock, or the sturdier ones don’t seem to come in sets of two. I’m glad that I didn’t bring a new hammock camper to this spot (but I’m sure glad I went!) Eventually I found the perfect spot to watch a sunset, sunrise, stargaze, and spend a morning reading from a bed with a view.

Pixie Nest at Rampart Lakes

The road is in great shape. Though I didn’t drive my Smart Car, I could have. Apparently it has been re-graded within the last few weeks, and although it is a long gravel stretch, it is easy-breezy.

The trail is another thing. The first 3 miles are unremarkable: an easy stroll through woods, with occasional creek views, waterfalls, downed logs, and meadows of blooming salmonberry and devils club. Once you hit the biggest waterfall, though, the trail to Rachel Lake is poor: huge rock & root-strewn step-ups, mud, and steep, more-or-less straight up (no one put in switchbacks here,) and lots of confusing side trails to get lost on. Keep to the largest path and avoid crossing places where rocks or wood mark “don’t go here” and eventually, after an intense climb, you come to beautiful Rachel Lake. Almost all of the elevation gain is in that last mile to Rachel Lake. Worth it? Yes!

Rachel Lake from the Rampart Lakes trail

The trail to Rampart Lakes is more obvious, but even more steep and rocky, until you reach the area of the lakes. From there, it’s a hodgepodge of well-worn, meandering, criss-crossing footpaths. It’s easy to get confused up here, as there doesn’t appear to be any main trail, and there are zig-zags everywhere. A map is a great idea. The lakes, though, are just gorgeous, and wildflowers are blooming. Despite the high use and careless maze of trails, the area is splendid.

View from my hammock spot at Rampart Lakes

It’s also popular. When I arrived at the trailhead around midnight on friday night, there were already a dozen cars in the parking lot. By 9:30am saturday, the parking lot was full. There’s no shortage of company anywhere on the trail or at Rachel or Rampart Lakes. Fortunately there are plenty of campsites and lunch spots to choose from. I didn’t really mind, though, as I can’t begrudge anyone for wanting to be outdoors on such a beautiful weekend.

Wildflowers on the trail to Rampart Lakes

Wildlife: I saw a garter snake, chipmunks, trout (and lots of flyfishers), kids, dogs, butterflies, bees, and other bugs.

The mosquitoes were annoying, but the wind was howling both afternoons and that probably kept them at bay a little. I don’t know if this is a typically-windy destination, but it was cranking up there. Setting up camp and cooking were a bit of a challenge. It did die down a bit after sunset, though, and the morning was sweetly calm. Fortunately it was too hot to be chilled by the wind, but I did end up having to deploy my hammock tarp after a couple of hours of stargazing to keep the wind off while I slept.

Stargazing view from my Pixie Nest

Despite the gnarly trail conditions, bugs, crowds, and wind, this was still a pretty epic weekend. It’s gorgeous country, and to be up there the first weekend of June in 80-degree weather was great.

Rampart Lakes area

Round-trip including a bit of wandering around all of the lakes was around 13 miles and 2600 feet total elevation gain.

I definitely do enjoy solo time in the woods (or anywhere,) but I’m very much looking forward to the trips I have planned in the next few months with playmates!

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