Area: Bandera

Length: 4.3

Elevation: 2170 +2230 -130

Condition: good, overbuilt

Solitude: miserable

Appeal: medium high

Mason Lake, Bandera Mtn. summit

Difficulty: moderate

Administered: USFS, North Bend R.D.

Trailhead: Ira Spring

Connects to: Mt. Defiance - Thompson trail,
Bandera Mountain

Guides: ALWsm, DNSnoq

Maps: USGS Bandera, Green Trails Bandera



This trail probably wouldn't have been mentioned here, except it is something that you might want to get past to find those obscure places you want to reach.

The Ira Spring trail is overbuilt as wilderness trails go, a melding of the old Mason Lake trail with the Bandera Mountain trail. By halving the grade, making the tread 3 feet wide with a foot more cleared border on each side, adding a mile to the travel distance, what was once a serious challenge is now a favored jogger track. Was that the intended purpose of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness? Maybe not, but something was needed to relieve some of the population pressure at Snow Lake and other Snoqualmie area trails.

The day trippers will stop at Mason Lake, a true alpine lake, pleasant if not particularly noteworthy. There are impressive overviews of the I-90 corridor along the way, if you like such things, plus views to Mt. Rainier and Snoqualmie Pass. Besides dodging foot traffic, the main challenge is elevation gain. There is plenty.

A Forest Recreation Pass is required, even if the relatively huge trailhead lot is filled to the point that parking is not an option.



Lower trail


The trail begins on level old road grade for 0.4 miles, going west at first, and then doubling back with a steady but easy climb east. Pass Mason Creek at 0.8 miles, a good source of water, but filter carefully because of frequent exposure to dogs. At 1.0 miles, pass the vague and unmarked junction to the old Mason Trail. At 1.3 miles, the reconstructed trail begins, following a historical jeep track at a steeper grade. The lower grade continues below, obscure but passable, if you care to explore.

Long switchbacks take you through avalanche cuts, light forest, and the occasional boulder field as views become more open. Enjoy the patches of vigorous bear grass. There are sweeping to Mt. Rainier and the I-90 corridor below.

Ira Spring Trail view

At 3800 feet, 2.8 miles, pass a left-turning switchback. An unmarked or poorly marked side trail branches off to the right and straight up the slope to Bandera Mountain. Continue left as the main trail begins a long westward sweep, up and across boulder slopes in the sun, passing vigorous clumps of bear grass.

Reach a thin forested area and drop over the ridge at 3.5 miles, with a brief steep run, then a few short and easy switchbacks down the shady northwest ridge face. The way soon levels and takes you on a direct path in old growth forest to Mason Lake. Cross the outlet creek at 4.0 miles on easy flat-topped boulders.


Mason Lake outlet

Continue along the west shore to a gentle pile of boulders for lunch, or continue on the trail an additional 0.3 miles (perhaps dodging a few mushy spots in early summer) to connect with the Mount Defiance and Bandera Plateau trails. If you have webbed feet, you could consider wandering west from Mason Lake to find Little Mason Lake, ringed by muck and dense brush. My suggestion: view it from above on the Defiance trail.

Adventurers with extra time, route finding skills, and no fear of boulders boulder scrambling and obstacles might like exploring the historic Old Mason Lake trail. While it reduces trip distance, it will probably take longer because it is steep where not rough.

Mason view from Defiance