Alaska from PCT
Chimney Rock Group in distance
Alaska Mountain is a modest hump of a mountain whose summit is only 300 feet above the Pacific Crest Trail 8 miles north of Snoqualmie Pass. The mountain itself is very unassuming and easy, and can be readily climbed by hikers and backpackers just walking by as they do the PCT. The challenging aspect of this trip is the snow. Before August, the PCT harbors some very dangerous snowfields in hidden gullies before you ever reach the vicinity of the peak. Furthermore, one must travel via the infamous Kendall Katwalk, a portion of the PCT that has been blasted out of solid granite. In normal snow years, this portion of the PCT is not passable before late July. Consequently, while Alaska Mountain is by itself an easy stroll, access to it will be quite limited before the second half of summer by dangerous snow fields. Once near Alaska Mountain, there are great views of the surrounding peaks such as Hibox Mountain, Alta Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, Chikamin Peak, and the huge monolith of Mt. Thompson.
Red from PCT
Drive I-90 52 miles east of Seattle and get off exit #52. Take a left at the exit ramp, go under I-90, and look on the right side immediately after the underpass for signs and a road for the Pacific Crest Trail on the right side. Follow the signs and park in the spacious parking lot.
Hike the PCT 5 miles north to the Kendall Katwalk. Or alternatively, find the old Commonwealth Basin Trail shortly above the trailhead. Hike the PCT only about 100 yards to the intersection with an overgrown road. Head left on the road to the road end, finding an old, eroded trail heading up on the right. Follow this trail up about 700 vertical feet to the entrance to Commonwealth Basin. Hike the fine trail here for about 1/2 mile. Look on the right side for a junction with the PCT. Taking the Commonwealth Basin approach cuts 1 mile each way out of this trip, and also saves about 400 feet in elevation gain. As you climb up the PCT, you will have great views of the Commonwealth Basin peaks such as Guye Peak, Snoqualmie Mountain, Lundin Peak, and Red Mountain.
Continue past the Kendall Katwalk another mile, passing Gravel Lake on your left, and Ridge Lake on your right. Once past those lakes, dangerous snowfields can linger here into August, depending on the year. BRING AN ICE AX
. Look 800 feet down to huge Alaska Lake and across Gold Creek Valley to Hibox Mountain and Alta Mountain. Continue another mile to the southeast ridge of Alaska Mountain, which is the brushy, wooded hill to your left. Climb easily to the summit.
Wonderful views of surrounding peaks will greet you. This is an easy peak and a wonderful vantage point for loftier summits.
Trip Stats: 16 miles roundtrip (14 miles roundtrip by Commonwealth Basin). About 3000 feet elevation gain with ups and downs. Mainly Class 1 except on snowfields and the final 300 feet to the summit, which is Class 2.
You will be entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Self-service permits must be filled out at the trailhead. Furthermore, you will need an Northwest Trail Park Pass ($30/year) to park at the PCT trailhead.
Gold Creek Valley
There are numerous camping possiblities on this trip. There are fine campsites in Commonwealth Basin next to Commonwealth Creek. Farther on this trip, there are several established campsites at Ridge Lake. There are not really any sites at Gravel Lake, and you will need to lose elevation to get to it anyway. Farther on the PCT and beyond Alaska Mountain, there is camping at Joe Lake, but you will need to drop a couple of hundred feet from the PCT. North of Huckleberry, there are numerous flat spots by the PCT with snowbanks which could make camping possible, but will not be ideal. The next camping possibilities to the north will be over Chikamin Pass at Park Lakes.
TOPO! Software Image.
The closest year-round Forest Service ranger station is in North Bend, about 18 miles west of Snoqualmie Pass. Contact information:
North Bend Ranger Station
North Bend, WA 98045
Snow conditions are available from the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Areas (of which Alpental is one) at the following website:
Summit at Snoqualmie Snow Conditions
Also, webcams are available from the Washington State Department of Transportation at: Snoqualmie Pass Web Cam
When to Climb
While this mountain is an easy climb, the terrain for accessing it melts out late. This is a late-season journey. At the time of this author's ascent, dangerous snowfields existed into early August. Do not attempt the Kendall Katwalk until melted out.