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Home Go Hiking Trip Reports Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lakes, Thompson Lake via Granite Creek Trail, Thompson Lake via Mount Defiance, Mount Defiance, Pratt Lake Basin, Melakwa - Pratt Lake Traverse, Chair Peak Lake, Gem Lake, Snow Lake

Trip Report By

WTA Member

 

400 

Hiked Sep 8, 2021

Type of Hike

Day hike

Trail Conditions

Minor obstacles posing few problems

Road

Road suitable for all vehicles

Bugs

No bugs

Snow

Snow free

For a few years I have wanted to do a P2P Corridor route that stayed away from some of the busier trails and gave a good snapshot of what the area has to offer.  I wanted the route to travel all the way to the pass and avoid any road traveling.  The compromise meant there would have to be off trail travel between Melakwa Lake and Gem Lake but it was brief and that section was really going to be the highlight of the traverse.

My partner thankfully agreed to pick me up after work at the pass and the weather report looked perfect so I decided it was time to go for it.

Started at the new Granite Lakes TH.  Smooth sailing to the Thompson Lakes junction.  Lots of water sources along this section, a bit brushy in spots which might lead to getting wet with an early morning start.  Cobwebs galore!  

Headed towards Thompson Lake after the junction.  Here the trail eventually leaves the old roadbed and you are greeted with forest instead of more open terrain prior to this. Again, nothing significant in this section to note.  There is a steep drop to Thompson Lake and the trail around the lake is faint in some areas.  Got a chuckle out of spotting an old fiberglass boat along the lakeshore.  It wasn't small so am curious how it made it's way to the lake.

After the lake, you switchback up to a small shoulder and then begin the long traverse below peaks like Webb and P3.  This trail is a bit rougher around the edges with some sloping tread, blowdowns to navigate and faint sections.  But what a pleasant surprise it was!  Nice views, beautiful meadows tucked away and complete solitude.  Of note, no water sources along this section of my trip all the way to Island Lakes.

The trail takes you to the cutoff to climb up Defiance. I decided to skip the summit visit as I wanted my route to be a true straight line route with no side trips.  Fall colors are really starting to come out along the open section of the Defiance trail.  Then it was back in the trees to drop down towards Mason Lake.

At the junction, I hung a left and meandered my way through the Island Lakes area.  Fall colors again showing here.  Again, this was the first water I came across since Thompson.

Then I hung a left again at the junction with the Pratt Lake trail.  Dropping down to the lake.  Trail is in great shape and the Pikas were out and about in the talus fields in this section. 

After Pratt Lake, the climb to Melakwa Lake begins.  There are a couple of water sources along this stretch.  Trail is in pretty good shape with a couple blowdowns.  Nothing major though.

While a lot of the trip so far had great views and highlights, it's at Melakwa Lake where the drama really hits.  I had considered tackling this route in reverse but am glad I didn't. The gradual build towards Melakwa Lake was much more rewarding for me.  Suddenly you find yourself in this alpine environment, surrounded by rugged crags of peaks like Chair and Kaleetan. Of course, this is where the route ups the ante as the off trail travel begins.  For those who are not comfortable with that, you could choose to descend to Denny Creek and still get a nice traverse in.

Past the Melakwa Lakes, you are mostly challenged with talus field navigation towards Melakwa Pass.  You can spot cairns along the way but honestly, it all just funnels you towards the pass so take the line that looks best to you.  Once you make the pass, you get a sweeping view of Chair Peak Lake and the mountains beyond.

The drop to Chair Peak isn't exposed but it's steep and despite being careful, I did slip a few times on the loose rock over hard packed dirt.  It isn't long though and that terrain gives way to talus which for me, is a tiny bit more predictable.  Once you work your way around the lake, you climb up a bench and look towards Gem Lake.  This is the most tedious part of the route as you want to stay high to avoid unnecessary loss of elevation. This means some steep sidehilling.  Look closely though and you will often see a sign of a faint climbers trail.  You will have to drop a little to avoid some steep cliffs but continue to stay as high as you can past these.  Eventually the climbers path becomes pretty apparent and leads you to a narrow ridge.  Then the path follows this to Gem Lake.

The tough part over, I jumped on the Gem Lake/Snow Lake Trail and finished off the traverse.  Nothing major here to note other than since it was early evening, this trail was pretty empty for me as the crowds had departed for the day.  I did note that when I mapped the route out, it looked to be about 22 miles but I could see that it was going to be closer to 25 as I climbed out of Snow Lake.

A wonderful traverse full of interesting sights!  Fantastic for those who want a big single day trip or as I two day (or more) backpack trip as there are so many convenient campsites along the way.  My final stats were 25 miles with 9k of cumulative gain so it's stout!


Comments

ngie on Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lakes, Thompson Lake via Granite Creek Trail, Thompson Lake via Mount Defiance, Mount Defiance, Pratt Lake Basin, Melakwa - Pratt Lake Traverse, Chair Peak Lake, Gem Lake, Snow Lake

Wonderful traverse :)! Thanks for the share.

I found the spot between Thompson and Defiance really peaceful and beautiful last year when I did the shorter traverse from Granite Lakes to Mason Creek “Trailhead”. I bet it was extra special along Lower Tuscohatchie to Gem this time of year :).

Posted by:


ngie on Sep 13, 2021 08:47 AM

Stuke Sowle on Granite Creek Trail to Granite Lakes, Thompson Lake via Granite Creek Trail, Thompson Lake via Mount Defiance, Mount Defiance, Pratt Lake Basin, Melakwa - Pratt Lake Traverse, Chair Peak Lake, Gem Lake, Snow Lake

Thank you, Ngie!

That stretch between Thompson and Defiance was such a sweet surprise. I will be visiting that trail again! Lower Tuschohatchie to Gem was just magical. Beyond my expectations. So glad I did this traverse and will be doing it again!

Posted by:


Stuke Sowle on Sep 13, 2021 09:08 AM