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Rainy Lake

Okanogan National Forest

July 2nd, 2010

2.0 miles
90 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:02

Starting elevation
4876 feet
Max elevation
4884 feet

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From Marblemount, drive east on Highway 20 past the town of Newhalem. About 37 miles past Newhalem, look for the Rainy Pass parking area on your right. The trailhead is near the entrance to the parking area, on your left. Parking currently costs $5 (self-pay; bring exact change and a pen).   View Driving Map

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When we arrived, we saw that were patches of snow at the trailhead (at 4875 feet), but I knew that the trail was fairly level and paved, so I wasn't worried. It was, however, quite cool at the trailhead. We put on gloves and rain pants for warmth. It wasn't actually raining, but it looked like it might.

Bird on our rental car at the trailhead

While we were getting ready, a man asked me to help him push his car. Somehow, he'd gotten his car stuck in a small patch of snow and ice in the parking lot. I'd later see several cars go through the same patch -- they'd lose control, but all make it through. His car, however, was stuck pretty good. We tried pushing, but didn't make much progress. Eventually we left him to start our hike.

From the trailhead, there are two trails. The one to the left leads to Rainy Lake. The one to the right leads to Lake Ann and Maple Pass. The Lake Ann trip is a 4 mile out and back trip, while the Maple Pass loop is 7.2 miles. Our destination today was Rainy Lake, just one mile from the trailhead.

The path is supposed to be wheelchair-accessible, paved the entire way and mostly flat. However, it is not wheelchair-accessible early in the season. Snow patches covered the path in several places. A 2-foot thick tree felled on top of the trail closer to the lake also made it impassible for wheelchairs. Perhaps later in the season they'll saw through it.

Snow on the trail

Snow patch or snow ghost?

There are interpretive signs along the way, identifying the trees on either side of the trail. Shortly, we crossed a bridge with a nice view of a series of small cascading waterfalls on our right. Very shortly after that, we crossed a second bridge with a much louder and larger waterfall also on our right, formed I would guess by Lake Ann Creek.

First of the two cascades

Second (and larger) cascade

After climbing over the aforementioned tree, we reached Rainy Lake. The trail ends in a paved viewing area with an interpretive sign and 2 benches. The lake itself sits in a glacial cirque, with snow-capped mountains rising right from its shores. We could see a waterfall at the other end of the lake, streaming down into the lake.

Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake

Viewing area at Rainy Lake

As befitting its name, when we arrived at Rainy Lake it started to rain. We set up the tarp over one of the benches to have lunch there. Although relatively light, the rain continued unabated pretty much the whole time we were there, stopping about the time we were done with lunch. Afterwards, we explored the dirt use trail that leads from the far end of the viewing area. After a very short walk, we arrived at a nice spot by the shore. No benches or interpretive signs here, but a small relatively flat area and a fallen tree to sit on. After a brief stay, we started the return journey, back the way we came.

Rainy Lake from the spot by the shore we found

Rainy Lake

While I suspect that this might be a popular trail later in the summer, early in the season it's relatively quiet. We encountered a few people on the way in, but no one on the way back.

After the hike, we saw that the man had finally freed his car. Although I did see other cars navigate that patch successfully, I decided not to take a chance and went the other way, avoiding it entirely.

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