hiking bertha may and granite lakes


That’s a wrap on our first weekend without Ryan for a while. A few people have asked, so I’ll clarify quickly here; no, he’s not deployed. No, he’s not gone too long, but yes, he is gone for over a month, which is usually enough time to establish a routine without him (and then have that routine turned on end when he returns). Needless to say, we’re working hard to stay busy, and it seems like maybe, just maybe, Washington has finally embraced the concept of summer. We’re gearing up for a week of summer temps finally, and this past weekend was actually sunny, making it the perfect weekend to spend time hiking Bertha May and Granite Lakes.

After our last hike to Lake 22 failed, I wanted something that was decidedly more kid-friendly. I had a goal. I wanted a less strenuous hike, and I wanted one that offered a significant payout or reward at the end. I decided that hiking Bertha May and Granite Lakes fit the bill perfectly. It’s about 4.5 roundtrip, only had a few strenuous inclines, had well-marked trails, and featured not one, not two, but three gorgeous lakes along the way. Best of all? You can swim at both Bertha May and Granite Lakes, though Bertha May is apparently more popular for fishing, while Granite Lake is more popular for both camping and swimming.

hiking with dogs and kids

kids who hike

hiking with kids

My friend Alicia and her family decided to tag along, which was a special treat because I haven’t seen Alicia since before the quarantine began. We’d been talking about getting together, but we’ve also wanted to be smart about social distancing, etc., and the timing finally felt right for a trail hike with kids. We left mid-morning from JBLM, and we made the hour and 45-minute drive out in the direction of Mt. Rainier. The actual hike, however, turns off the main drag about 10 miles from the trailhead, and you leave county-maintained roads for backroads and backwoods, both of which are exciting – and moderately terrifying. I’d read the trip reports ahead of time, luckily, and we knew going in that the road would be bad…and it was. Fallen tree limbs flanked the sides of the road, and the potholes were big and deep. We had to swerve around quite a few, as well as try to drive over and straddle the others. Luckily, both our cars made it to the trailhead unscathed!

After loading up, we headed out, and we were immediately greeted by the first lake, Pothole Lake, at about a quarter-mile in. It’s not in the hike description because, truthfully, you don’t have to hike to it, and it’s far more of a pond than a lake. Nevertheless, it was a fun taste of what was to come. The trail, itself, was muddy, but it wasn’t altogether treacherous like some of the more recent hikes we’ve done. We crossed a stream at one point, tip-toed over rocks at another, took a few breaks on a couple of the steeper inclines, and made it to Bertha May lake after about 45 minutes. It was breathtaking. Turquoise, clear, and beautifully still, this lake is something to behold. The mountainous hills surrounding it still had patches of snow, but we couldn’t help but dip our feet in and stop for lunch – if only to appease hungry littles.

bertha may lake

dog friends

best water dogs


granite lake hike

best lake hikes jblm

swimming granite lake

mt rainier views

We took a decent little break to soak it all up, but we also knew we wanted to make it to Granite Lake, so we pressed onwards. It’s not much of a hike from Bertha May Lake to Granite Lake; maybe .75 of a mile max, and before you get there, you’re treated to some epic views of Mt. Rainier to your left through the trees, as well. Honestly, that alone was a treat, but we knew the kids wanted to swim – and so did I! So, we passed a few tents and families camping, found a little incline to make our way down to the soft clay, and we quickly changed into our swimsuits. I knew it would be cold (and it was – about 56 degrees), but we were so excited, and we all took the plunge except Mieke. This glacial lake is pristine – so clear, so blue, and so quiet. I’ll be honest – Bertha May is more striking, but Granite was a lot of fun to swim in, and I’m so glad we took the time to do it.

We stayed until the kids started turning blue and shivering, then we decided it was time to make our way back down. Getting down requires a bit of doing with littles, as walking sideways on the steeper parts is definitely easier, but we made it down in just over an hour. The best reward, however, was the pride in my kids’ eyes, knowing they did that hike on their own legs. They did the whole thing, and I couldn’t be more proud of them! That’s the sort of hike that’s great for kids. It’s challenging, but it’s not too challenging, so they get that taste of victory. If hiking Bertha May and Granite Lakes is on your list, here’s what you need to know:

Trail Length: According to WTA, it’s 4 miles, but we clocked it at 4.6 roundtrip. I think it depends on how much extra hiking you do, as well.

Level of Difficulty: Easy. I’d say that it’s easy for those with experience. Younger children will likely need a little help, but it’s definitely more family-friendly.

Cost: Free

Parking: Note that there’s very little dedicated parking at the trailhead. We parked on the opposite side of the street, backed well into an easy ditch to get out of. I’d recommend just parallel parking as close to the trailhead and as far to the side as possible. There’s no specific pass required here, despite what WTA says.

Dog-friendly: Yes!

Tips: Be prepared for mud, and bring bug spray. I’d also recommend wearing waterproof boots/shoes, as you will cross one small stream. Oh, and bring your swimsuit!