If you are one of the few hikers who has not been to the top of Mount Ellinor or a neighboring peak, then chances are you have never seen Copper Mountain. Copper Mountain is a triple summit peak immediately west of Mounht Ellinor and north of Mount Rose. The southern flanks terminate at the shore of Lake Cushman and the North Fork Skokomish River. Copper sits right on the boundary between national forest and national park.
Though not by very far, all 3 summits extend above tree line and offer a wee little bit of exposed scrambling near their tops. The north summit located on the northwest ridge is the lowest and is rarely visited. Some older climbing guides claim that the east peak is the highest, but in truth the west peak is 5 to 10 feet high and can be considered the true summit.
To reach the summit of Copper Mountain requires a high level of physical fitness, off-trail navigation skill, snow climbing experience in early season, and exposed scrambling experience. See the route section for more information.
As with all medium sized peaks surrounded by larger peaks, the views from the top of Copper are extremely good. There are a number of craggy peaks in this area and it can be a bit overwhelming once you reach the upper basin. The main summits visible include Lincoln, Cruiser, Skokomish, Stone, Pershing, Washington, Ellinor, Rainier and Rose.
For those who are not satisfied with one peak per day, I suggest climbing nearby Cub Peak as well which is also accessible from Wagonwheel Lake.
HistoryThe mountain was named by Lieutenant O'Neil on July 7, 1890 after prospectors had discovered copper ore that year on the mountain. One of these prospecting mining shafts will be visible on the right hand side of the trail within the first half mile of the hike.
Standard RouteHike the Wagonwheel trail to the lake and follow a spur trail which contours west and then south side of the lake. This trail will peter out once you reach the south side of the lake. From here it is all cross country travel.
Ascend half way up the open gully above the lake and then cut into the trees on the left (east) side of the gully, avoiding devil's club. Continue an ascending traverse bearing south by southwest crossing several partially open gullies. Travel through the forest alternates between dense brush, devils club, and broken up tree debris.
Once you reach the open basin strewn with boulders, north of the north peak, the going gets easier. The idea is to traverse around the north peak and then ascend the north face of the main peak, aiming for a notch on the north ridge. Once the north ridge of the main peak is gained scramble class 2 and 3 to the summit. There is some exposure at the end.
Since Wagonwheel Lake is in the national park, to camp there (which really isn't necessary on this day trip climb) you will need a backcountry permit which is $5 plus $2 per person per night.
For more information:
Olympic National Park Phone -- (360)565-3130
Olympic National Park website info
CampingCopper Mountain is easily a day trip, but camping at the Staircase Campground for a few days makes exploring other regional attractions quite convenient.
Once could also camp back-country style at Wagonwheel Lake, inside the park boundary and subject to park regulations (see Red Tape section). The lake is lined with dense forest which minimizes the view of anything other than the lake's stagnant green water. Mosquitoes are plentiful here in the summer months.