Crater Mountain is a prominent peak rising north of Hwy. 20 about 5 mi. east of Ross Lake. It has deep valley footings with over 6000' of relief from the highway. Crater is the site of two former fire lookouts. One on the main summit and another on a 7054' point east of the east summit.
Abandoned trails lead to both sites. The name "crater" probably comes
from the mountain's appearance. A massive glacial cirque, holding crater lake, is carved out of the south side of the mountain. The out-of-print classic, Routes and Rocks, names the main summit of Crater as one of the five best viewpoints in the North Cascades!
Drive Hwy. 20 to the Canyon Creek trailhead.(m.p.141.2) Following trail signs, cross Canyon Creek and then Granite Creek on well made footbridges. Hike uphill (N) on trail#738 3.9 mi. to the junction with trail#738B. Follow this abandoned trail approx. 1 mi. to Crater Lk.(camping) From the lake, the trail climbs S.W. on to the S. ridge of the main summit, and follows this ridge N. to the summit. There is a 300'-400' vertical step in the ridge a short distance below the summit. A class 2-3 route(with exposure) is marked out using painted arrows on the rock.
After this steep pitch, the trail resumes up scree slopes to the summit.
A Trail Park Pass is required at all trailheads. The mountain is in the Pasayton Wilderness. The usual wilderness area camping restrictions apply. Call the Winthrop ranger station for details on trail conditions, closures, forest fire conditions, ect.
When To Climb
Late July to early October would be best. The area is inaccessible in winter due to closure of Hwy. 20. A spring ascent would likely encounter steep snow.
Good campsites exist on the rocky S. lip of the lake basin. The lake outlet is a good water source. One could also camp on a high plateau area on the S. ridge, although this would be very exposed to the weather and water is a ?.
Winthrop Ranger Station: 509-996-4000
Maps: Green Trails Mt. Logan #49, USGS Crater Mountain
Crater Mountain marks the one and only time I've followed arrows painted on the rock to climb to a summit. The "path" (more like ledges) is mostly on the labyrinthine West Face and takes all but about half-an-hour from where the trail unofficially ends below the summit tower. The arrows made it fun. Not for the faint of heart though.
As of Aug. 1, 2005, the Granite Creek footbridge (near the old guard station) is non-existent. It appears the USFS is rebuilding it. In the mean time, walk about 50-100 feet upriver and cross on a large, stable log.