The hike to Mount Defiance starts with mild zig-zagging on the Ira Spring Trail, passing under tall alder and fir trees and offering a variety of wildflowers to admire and salmonberries to sample along the way. Soon the trail becomes more of a climb, cutting long switchbacks up the ridge until it reaches the junction to Bandera Mountain. Following the trail instead toward Mason Lake, you will cross a rocky expanse before dipping down through the woods to the water. The main trail continues along the west and north sides of the lake before splitting off from the shore and running into the Mount Defiance Trail.
After turning left toward the mountain, the trail rolls gently up and down through the dark forest before it turns steeply upward for a series of switchbacks. The forest ends suddenly, and the trail begins skirting the ridge through a near fantastical landscape of wildflowers and butterflies. Tiger lilies, Indian paintbrush, lupines and beargrass provide a wealth of color, and to the south is always the immense Mount Rainier.
Several rock fields and lush meadows later, a steep scramble climbs the remaining 400 feet of elevation up to the rocky summit. The 360-degree view from the top is positively staggering. On a clear day you can see distant Mount Baker and Glacier Peak to the north, and Mount Rainier and Mount Adams to the south. Closer peaks include Bandera and Granite to the southeast, and Teneriffe and Dirty Harry to the west. Down below and clearly visible are Lake Kulla Kulla, Mason Lake and Little Mason Lake, all reflecting the landscape around them.
Note: The Mason Creek crossing (1 mile in on the Ira Spring Trail) is impassible when water levels are high in early spring.