Pratt River Trail

Kim and I hiked the beginning of the new Pratt River Connector trail several years ago. We hiked to the end of the trail work and dropped down to the MF Snoqualmie River. Finding the old boot path we took it back. This last fall I read that the new trail was completed to the old route up the Pratt River. When I found out the MF Road was just regraded to the Forest Service boundary I decided it was time to check it out. Kim planned to come along but had to cancel at the last minute. The drive up the graded gravel road was great. The last3.5 miles was not. In spots my Subaru just bounced from one deep pothole to the next and the next. Though I could have walked faster in spots the grading really sped up the drive. It took me 90 minutes from North Seattle to the trailhead. There were three cars in the lot at 8:50 am. One had been there overnight. One was a Corolla. Congratulations on driving that car up that road. At the end of the day the lot was full of trucks and SUVs. There was also a Civic and a Prius. I would not have driven either one up that road.

I was prepared for a near 70 degree day. It was a little cold at first but warmed up quickly. Over the Gateway Bridge and a right turn onto the signed "Pratt Lake Trail". This trail is as green as any trail I've hiked. Green like the Olympic rain forest but with a lot shorter drive. When the Middle Fork Road is paved in a few years this will become a much more popular trail. The trail quickly moves away from the river and there are few places it is seen for the next 3.3 miles. What you have is a dark forest with moss covering the trees, logs, rocks, and any hiker who sits still too long. This is not a "view" hike. The forest is the view. While there is only about 300' difference from the trailhead to the Pratt River there are a lot of ups and downs. The route stays high on the slope where the often flooding river cannot get at it. The route is a bit muddy in the first mile but the river will never wash it out.

The new trail was built by the same firm that built the PCT section over the Kendall Katwalk. Like the Katwalk they blasted the trail across several sheer rock faces. Think in terms of "mini-katwalks". There are a few Lake Serene like long stairways but all in all this trail does not feel "overbuilt". I like it. It is also fast. Many photo stops slowed me down but I made very good time on the way back. At exactly 2.5 miles, per my GPS, the new trail ends at an old road. This continues for on to near the Pratt River. At 3.3 miles I reached a spot near the Middle Fork River. I took the short detour to the river. My GPS map showed a trail straight ahead that near the Pratt River then heads up the Pratt River Valley. A dashed line cuts up valley from here soon meeting the other trail.

I took the more obvious short cut. My route never did get to the Pratt River so I'll have to return, take the other route, and find a way over. I was not far from the river. The short cut was easy hiking and I soon met up with the other trail. From here the route begins to climb up the valley. The trail is obvious enough but has had few boots on it the last 40 years. It was nearly that long ago that a cable "bridge" spanned the Middle Fork. The river can be forded at low water in the fall most years but this is the first time in nearly four decades that an easy trail leads to the Pratt Valley. There was been some recent log cutting and some very old cut logs as well. A few logs are down across the trail but far fewer than I was expecting.

From looking at trip reports the night before I had a suspicion where the big tree was located. I knew there was a sign for it off the main trail. I kept glancing at my GPS to make sure I did not miss it. The last time I checked I saw I was very close. I looked up and there was the sign. I recorded 4.5 miles to the junction. The Big Tree Trail is very narrow. It goes up and down until it meets an old logging railroad grade. The grade went up the other side of the river, crossed it and climbed the valley wall heading down the valley. I was now on the section heading down to the river. After about .40 miles i found the big tree. A sign next to it states: 9 foot 6 inches and about 205 feet tall. It is a big one. I have no idea whey they left this tree right next to the railroad grade. Next time I'll fight downed trees and continue to the river.

I had lunch here and then headed back to the junction. From there I took the left fork which climbs steeply to the old railroad grade. The same grade I was on earlier. Now came a walk on the wider old grade. This route continues about 10 miles to Pratt Lake.  I doubt many people have hiked the whole way since the cable bridge went away. Again, I was surprised by the lack of downed trees. On this steep slope i would expect many trees to fall across the grade. That is not the case. A look at the moss covered "humps" across the grade make clear that the old railroad ties are still there. I only saw two that were not completely covered with moss.  There are several creek crossings. One has a waterfall above and a much longer one below the crossing. I even found a fire ring near one creek. It would make for a lonesome camp. After a little over a mile I turned around. It was only about 12:30 pm.

I heard some yelling as I neared the junction. A little farther down I met a big group of 8 or 9 folks out on an Easter hike. Two members were no longer with the group. I told then I had seen nobody on the railroad grade. I hope they found the wayward hikers. That was the first group I had seen all day. On the way back I saw two other groups before seeing a number more in the last half mile. When back at the lower junction on the short cut trail near the river I took that short cut a little way then dropped to a viewpoint above the river. Here I found a cable dropping to and into the river. I wonder if it is the site of the old cable bridge?

The last 3.3 miles went by very fast. Now in shorts and short sleeves it felt like summer. I reached my car at 3:00 pm. It's always fun to hike a new trail. Especially one so close to home. Especially after the MF Road is paved this will become a low elevation river walk open much of the year. I expect to return many times. It was a fine warm spring day of exploring the lower Pratt River Valley.

Gateway Bridge
River From Bridge
Pratt River Sign
Blasted Trail
Trail Along River
Green Everywhere
Rocky Section
Mini Katwalk
Rainy Creek Bridge
Cascading Creek
Rainy Creek
Rare Stairway
Did I Say Green?
Water On Trail
Biggest Stariway
Moss Covers Everything
Narrow Trail
Rare View Of River
Draped Moss
Log Down On Bridge
Mossy Log
Leaving Forest
Steep Slope
Mossy Rock
Nice Contrast
Now On Old Road
River View
Lit Up Fern
Old Pratt Valley Trail
Mossy Ground
Freshly Cut Log
Faint Trail
Big Tree
Hiker For Scale
250' Tall
View To Peaks
Railroad History
Falls On Grade
Mossy Grade
Railroad Ties
Yellow Violet
Old Bridge Cable?
MF Snoqualmie River
Steep Relief
Cars That Braved Road
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013