Every once in a while I run into a mountain that absolutely shocks me on how it did not make it on Summitpost. Here is one such mountain that shocks me. Of course once I saw that this mountain somehow slipped under so many peoples' radar I had to post this very beautiful mountain.
The relative ease of travel though rewards you greatly with an amazing dark blue lake and views from the summit of Bearhead Mountain, towering Mount Rainier, Old Baldy and many other prominent summits in this area. The open area at the summit also has a cool outcrop out towards the west that gives even more rewarding views. On the weekdays there is a good chance that you will be alone for much of your trip up this mountain but on weekends this mountain tends to be a little more of a popular mountain. Don't be discouraged though because this mountain is worth the extra travel.
Getting ThereVIA THE SUMMIT LAKE TRAILHEAD: Pickup Hwy 165 in Buckley from Highway 410. Stay on the road past the towns of Wilkerson and Carbonado and over the classic narrow Fairfax Bridge. Make a left at the "Y" intersection which has a sign pointing out the Carbon River Entrance. Roughly 7.5 miles, make a left on an unmarked road to a long bridge. Pay attention because most people pass this road the first time in the area. Once it crosses a bridge it will run into another T so make a right there. Take this bumpy road almost 7 miles to the end. From there you will pick up the Summit Lake Trailhead. The road is bumpy and though regular cars can drive this road, high clearance vehicles are recommended.
The route up this mountain is relatively easy and is ideal for people who are new into hiking and climbing. Both the peak and the lake are very special places to visit and neither of them take a tremendous amount of effort to get to.
From the Summit Lake Trailhead take the trail up as it switchbacks nicely all the way to Twin Lake. At from a mile it will hit a T-intersection where Summit Lake with be on the left and Bearhead Mountain will be to the right. Take the Summit Lake Trailhead. The trail will then switchback for a little bit then gradually climb all the way up to the base of Summit Lake. The trail will then go around Summit Lake and slowly rise as goes around the eastern sections of Summit Lake. It will then slowly ascend the northern ridge of Summit Lake Peak only getting a little steeper the closer it gets to the true summit. Along the ridge there are plenty of views of Summit Lake and the nearby mountains. As you get higher the views will get better. Soon you will reach the true summit where great views of Rainier and many other mountains await.
Red TapeNorthwest Forest Pass is required at the trailhead. There are no other permits for the region.
When to ClimbSummertime and early fall are the most recommended times to climb Summit Lake Peak. This is mostly because of access. The trailhead here starts out at 4100 and goes to 5700 feet. Most trailhead are snowed in during winter at this elevation so be aware of that fact. At 6 miles and 1400 feet of elevation gain this makes for a very fun and leisurely hike.
That all being the terrain heading to Summit Lake Peak is very doable in winter conditions. Like with all winter ascent snowshoes, trekking poles are required with an ice axe recommended in harder snow conditions. You will not face the leisurely conditions you would during the summer. Add at least 5 miles and potentially 1000 if 2000 feet of elevation gain. You might decide to take a more direct route that comes with its own complications. If you do plan on climbing this peak plan on at least a full day of snowshoeing.
There is a good campsite up at Twin Lake which is between Bearhead Mountain and Summit Lake Peak. Once you continue up the trail up to Summit Lake there will be a number of other camping areas around the lake. Just note that there are no campfires allowed within a quarter mile of Summit Lake. There is also an excellent camping spot literally a couple hundred feet from the true summit of Summit Lake Peak.
External LinksSummit Lake Peak
Excellent Page By Eric Willhite on Summit Lake Peak