The hike to Mason Lake offers a bit of everything, from dark woods to sunny ridges, from small waterfalls and wildflowers to clear alpine water. An ode to northwest conservationist and nature photographer Ira Spring, the trail ambles over creeks, through fir and alder groves, and between salmonberries, blackberries, foxglove and miniature lupine. After a 1.5-mile warm-up, the trail really starts to climb, and gaps in the trees offer partial views of Mount Rainier as the elevation increases.
Three miles in, the trail to Mason Lake parts with the trail to Bandera Mountain and follows the rocky ridge until it comes to the edge of the wooded Alpine Lakes Wilderness. A nicely shaded downhill trail leads another half mile to the sparkling water of Mason Lake. Right away you will find plenty of rocks for lunch in the sun, and several ideal swimming areas for cooling off. Follow the trail along the west and north sides of the lake to one of several camping areas if you plan to stay the night.
The main trail eventually turns away from the shores of the lake and intersects with the trail to Mount Defiance, for a very challenging but rewarding 1.5 mile extension of your trip. Another optional and shorter detour is the trail to Little Mason Lake, which traverses through a boggy meadow until it reaches the secluded and lily pad strewn water.
Note: When water levels are high, the Mason Creek crossing 1 mile in on the Ira Spring Trail is impassable.