Decided to continue the weekend theme of Alpine Lake hikes after hiking Snow Lake on Saturday. This is my 6th trip up Box Canyon and 3rd time visiting Rachael Lake. The road to the trailhead is very dusty. Its been hot and the dirt reeks of the heat.
The parking lot at the trailhead was full as we decided to get a midday start around 11:30 to avoid the morning crowds. We passed many parties coming down on our way up the trail. Contrary to prior trip reports, we did not encounter many bugs. We lathered up in Jungle Juice and brought anti-itch medicine sticks as a precaution. There were some bugs on the way down, but nothing bothersome. Perhaps the dry weather is keeping the bugs at bay. Some other parties at the lake were complaining, but we had no issues.
The trail up is in good condition. Very dry and dusty initially, as you climb the 300 feet of initial elevation to gain the main trail through the canyon. The creek beds are full of beautiful pools of water, covering colorful, smooth green rock slabs. The sounds of the creek follow the trail, providing a melodic gurgling to accompany your hike. We noticed the sound of the water more coming down than going up. Most of the trail is dry along the flat portion in the canyon, save for a few areas where some minor tributary creek crossings.
Views of Hibox mountain peek through the trail on the right as you go deeper into the canyon. At approximately 2.75 miles in, the stroll ends and the climb begins. You will cross the creek and the uphill begins, gaining over 1300 feet in a little over a mile. The trail up is rough and primitive – a virtual staircase of large rocks, boulders, roots, stumps – unrelentless, save for a few breaks where you encounter a rock face, streaming with water, about 3/4th of the way up and a few areas of waterfalls.
I have been hiking many trails and mountains this summer and have been on this trail before – I forgot how hard it is. About as challenging as Mailbox peak if not more so. There are a couple of flat spots where the trail eases, mostly large, slabby rocks, with great vistas of the canyon below, and of Hibox Mountain. The effort is worth it, as Rachael Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Alpine Lake Wilderness. The Eastern Shore is very accessible and there are many trails leading to good campsites. We found a great spot for lunch and to inflate our sleeping pads – makeshift inflatable floatables. I strongly recommend packing in some type of inflatable vessel, as the water is absolutely divine, crystal clear, refreshing, warm for the first foot – then diving in temperature with the depths. Rachael lake would make a great spot for a couple of nights of camping. You could bag Alta Mountain, Rampart Ridge, and Hibox Mountain, with this as your base. Also exploring the Rampart Lakes and Lila Lakes area would be great day excursions as well.