backpack: Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Rampart Lakes + Alta Mountain
On this three night backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we hiked in to Rampart Lakes and day hiked up Alta Mountain.
- distance & elevation gain to Rampart Lakes: 5.7 miles, 2,300 ft. gain
- hike out: 5.5 miles, 2,750 ft. loss
- day hike options: Lila Lakes, Alta Mountain
- best months: August – September
- location: Alpine Lakes Wilderness; nearest town: North Bend
- land management: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
- trail conditions: Rachel Lake Trail #1313
- hike description: Washington Trails Association – Rachel Lake
- permits: self-issued at the trailhead
- trailhead pass: NW Forest Pass
- regulations: campfires are not allowed at Rachel Lake or above 5,000 feet
- note: this area is extremely popular and gets overcrowded on weekends, so trips during the week are highly recommended
We started at the Rachel Lake trailhead with a plan to basecamp at the Rampart Lakes area.
The hike in to Rachel Lake is difficult, as noted on the Mountaineers website: “While the total distance and elevation gain suggests a moderate hike, the infamous Rachel Lake “mile from hell” is truly grueling and inappropriate for those who are not in athletic condition. In one mile, a heavily rooted and rough boot path ascends 1,300 feet. This portion is more like a scramble than a hike.”
The hike in is next to Box Canyon Creek for most of the way, crossing over many tributary creeks.
This is the trail… rocky with roots to climb up for about a mile. We were really tired on the way up, and considered camping at Rachel Lake, but I’d seen photos of the Rampart Lakes area and was determined to camp there instead.
We rested at Rachel Lake for a short time, filtering water to continue our hike. The trail past Rachel Lake goes up a steep ridge, but the condition of this trail is much better, with switchbacks to ease the hike up, and views of Rachel Lake below.
At the trail junction at the top of the ridge, we turned left to go to Rampart Lakes.
Day 2: exploring the Rampart Lakes area
Day 3: day hike to Alta Mountain
On the third day, we headed towards Lila Lakes for a hike up Alta Mountain.
View of Hibox Mountain (in the center) with Lila Lakes below.
Heading up Alta Mountain
Looking back at the hike up Alta, with Rachel Lake in the center, and Rampart Lakes Mount Rainier in the upper right.
Wow. Endless peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
On the last day, we hiked out all the way to the trailhead. I was super tired so I didn’t take any photos on the hike out.