There are two ways to hike to Rampart Ridge.
One way is called the Rocky Run trail via Lake Lillian. We heard it was the shorter, but steeper of the two options.
The other way is via Rachael Lake. This route is longer but we heard it was pretty flat for about 2/3 of the hike. Naturally, I chose the shorter, steeper route to do first.
I must stop here to say that the people who said the trail was steep are pretty seasoned hikers.
The trail started out easy and flat but that didn’t last long. I think this route should have been called the “are you kidding me?’ route. It quickly turned into a scramble up lose dirt and rocks. It took us almost an hour to climb 3/4 of a mile to the Lake Laura turnoff (because of the humans. Chester and Gretel didn’t see what the problem was). We didn’t take the side trail but instead kept climbing.
We eventually arrived at Lake Lillian. It was amazing!
We rested, had a snack, and then tackled the rock outcrop. I was nervous about hiking up it with the dogs (and a bit nervous myself) because one slip would mean falling 5 – 8 feet onto the rocks below. Chester and Gretel are always leashed when we hike though and the harnesses are secure. I figured that if the worst happened, I could catch them from falling.
Chester made it up the rock with minimal assistance from doggy daddy. I was preparing to give Gretel a boost when she started climbing. She only looked back once as if to say “See, I can do it myself Mom!”
After the rock outcrop, the trail skirts Lake Lillian. This flat section of trail was both a relief and a tease. For a moment, my legs forgot the steep-ass trail we had just climbed.
But then the trail starts straight up the hill toward the ridge. Even if we hadn’t gone any further, the views from the top of the ridge made the climb worth it.
The trail winds past a tarn (a mountain lake or pool formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier) and then skirts around a hillside. Apparently we were supposed to continue straight up to reach Rampart Ridge. We missed the turnoff and ended up on the trail that skirts around the hill to Rampart Lakes.
We realized we made a wrong turn and decided to find a perch above the lakes to have lunch and take in the views. I could have stayed up there for hours but eventually we had to head back down.
The views along this trail were amazing but it was a lot harder than I expected. I would say if you an extra third to the difficulty, it would have been as difficult as Mailbox Peak.
Chester is still pretty gung-ho about hiking but I limit him a bit now that he is an old man. If I had known this trail was this hard, I probably would have left him at home. He is amazing though and I am very proud. He didn’t even grump around the house any more than usual afterward (which would imply he was sore).
Good luck finding a description of a hike online. I couldn’t find an accurate description of the route we took. There are several connecting trails in the area and every description I found used some variation of the trail network.
The closest description I could find was on SummitPost.org. DO NOT use the trail directions in the summit post description though because they don’t point to the trailhead we drove to. I have included the proper directions in the trail stats below.
This trail is technically dog friendly. If your dog is not a seasoned hiker though, I highly recommend starting with another trail. If you have a small dog, be prepared to lift him/her up some of the higher step-ups on the trail.
Some of the information that I found online eluded to the possibility o hiking around the rock outcrop by Lake Lillian. I wandered around a bit while we were there and, although I found some way trails, I was not able to find it.
Trail Name: Rocky Run Trail to Rampart Ridge or the Rampart Ridge Backdoor Trail
Distance: 6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2,400 feet
Highest Point: 5,870 feet
Permits and Passes: A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead
Directions: From Seattle head east on I-90. Take exit 54 (signed for Gold Creek), turn left and cross under the overpass then shortly turn right onto Gold Creek Rd (NFD 4832). Go approx 2.5 miles until the road changes to gravel, then continue on gravel turning left approx 4.3 miles from freeway at unmarked fork (NFD 136). Stay right at the next fork and continue to the open area at the hairpin turn (total distance 6.2 miles from the freeway turnoff).