Area: Bandera

Length: (4.3 +) 4.5

Elevation: 4300 +1120 -1740

Condition: good, mostly natural

Solitude: high

Appeal: medium

Mt. Defiance summit views Thompson lake

Difficulty: difficult

Administered: USFS, North Bend R.D.

Trailhead: Ira Spring trailhead

Connects to:
Ira Spring / Mason Lake Trail
Thompson Lake trail

Guides: (none)

Green Trails Bandera (206)
USGS Bandera (20170310)



The crowds rarely go past Mason Lake; a hearty few sometimes adventure eastward to the Bandera Plateau or to the summit of Mount Defiance. Only those of a rare breed continue past Mount Defiance, behind the ridge, where it is high, dry and lonesome. Much of the travel is easy, with lots of northward views down Thompson Creek into the Pratt River Valley and beyond. The miles, however, will take their toll.



Take the Ira Spring Trail, to the end 0.3 miles just beyond Mason Lake.

Leave the crowds at Mason Lake. At the ridge, you reach a "T" intersection. Going eastward, to the right, takes you to the Bandera Plateau. Going west, to the left, takes you gently along the timbered ridge top toward Mount Defiance. The gentleness ends at 0.4 miles, as you begin a sequence of ambitious uphill switchbacks, gaining about 950 feet in 1.2 miles. Finally, you break out into steep open slopes, dense with flowers, with views down to the I-90 highway corridor on a clear day.

Defiance trail

At 1.4 miles, on the southwest mountain flank, a harsh 0.2 mile side trail slashes rudely uphill to reach the Mt. Defiance summit, 5584 feet — no technical difficulty, but plenty of attention required to maintain footing. The expansive views from here might be enough for one day.

snoqualmie peaks view

Returning to the main trail, continue circling to reach the ridge at the west flank of Defiance, 0.2 more miles. Reaching the broad ridge, the trail slides straight down along a hollow, losing 500 feet elevation, but mercifully the steep grade is short. Soon, the trail flattens, and for the next 2.1 miles stays almost level along a pretty plateau with beargrass, firs, and lots of open views. It is similar to the Bandera Plateau, but a little narrower and without lakes.

At 3.0 miles, the trail enters a sequence of short switchbacks, heading in a roughly northwest direction and dropping about 400 feet. At 3.7 miles, things level out momentarily, but then pass over a fold, cut back to the left, and begin another set of switchbacks to drop 500 feet more. At 4.3 miles, reach level ground at last, and approach the south shore of the lake, 3650 feet elevation. You can step through some light timber and hop roots to find a comfortable stony shoreline there.

Thompson Lake

For the best campsites, continue westward around the south shore, joining with the main Thompson Lake trail, which heads uphill to the west.