Bearhead from Summit Lake Peak (Special Thanks to Eric Willhite for this photo)
Bearhead Mountain located just north of Mount Rainier National Park is a classic hiking peak in the region. Though the mountain has over 1100 feet of prominence and is over 6000 feet this mountain when done in the summertime is actual very easy and a perfect mountain for those just starting to get into hiking and mountaineering. Located in the Clearwater Wilerness Area this summit has been a classic family destination for many years. At 6 miles round trip and only 1800 feet from the trailhead this mountain requires less effort than other mountains in the region.
Alpine fields in the mountains. Staring down the eastern side of Bearhead
This mountain in summer might just be an easier hike but it is a well worthwhile hike and a very rewarding mountain. The views from Bearhead are very good. Though not quite a total panorama the views from the mountain are very good especially of Rainier to the south, the foothills to the west (Old Baldy, Pitcher Mountain, etc.) and of the other regional Cascade Mountains to the east. In August these views can be easily framed by the wildflowers in the region. Many casual hikers like going up this mountain because of how the flower frame all of the nearby views. One can also see many of the beautiful lakes in the region which only enhances the views from this summit. It should be noted at on top of the mountain is a small trail/bootpath that goes onto of Bearhead Mountain that follow the entire top ridge.
Though the western true summit is higher the eastern sub-peak (not to be confused with Bearhead Mountain-East Peak) that will also give you additional views from this mountain.
Looking down the ridge. Looking nck at the true summit.
Bearhead Mountain is also an official Irish Cabin Peak, which is a group of mountains north and west of Mount Rainier. These peaks were named after the Mountaineers Irish Cabin which was torn down in 1978. The name of the peaks on the list still stands and a member of the mountaineers and earn pins by hiking, scrambling and climbing these mountains.
Looking down the ridge from the true summit Staring at Bearhead Mountain-East Peak (or East Bearhead)
Getting ThereVIA THE SUMMIT LAKE TRAILHEAD:
Pickup Hwy 165 in Buckley from Hghway 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.
Map of the Route up Bearhead Mountain.
Starting from the Summit Lake Trailhead head up the trailhead roughly 1.5 miles on gradual switchbacks until the trail hits Twin Lake. At Twins Lakes you will run into T intersection one to the right pointing to Bearhead and the other to the left pointing to Summit Lake. Make the right and continue the gradual climb up at first switchbacks and then finally a well cut out side traverse of the trail southeast towards it's junction to the hardly used Carbon River Trail. Stay on the well graded and very easy to follow Bearhead Mountain Trail all the way to the summit of Bearhead Mountain. Roughly 6 miles and 1800 feet of elevation gain total.
Northwest Forest Pass is required at the trailhead. There are no other permits for the region.
When to ClimbSummer and early fall
are the most recommended times to climb Bearhead Mountain. The route might be good as late as early November but even though the trail up in the summer is easier the winter ascent of this mountain would be much tougher and the trail would be snowed in. Parts of the trail side traverse the steep western slopes of Bearhead Mountain and the snow is would cover completely the route. You would have to come up with a very different route if you choose to attempt this mountain in winter. It is still very doable and many have done it off-season. If you plan on doing this in winter come prepared with an ice axe at least and prepare for a long roadwalk into this area.
There is camping all over the Bearhead Mountain region. One could camp permit free at Twin Lake, and Summit Lake. This is a moderately popular area to camp on the weekend so if you plan to camp by the lakes plan for company. Provided the weather is good you can even bivy on the summit of Bearhead Mountain. It is rounded enough that one could bivy on that very summit and enjoy the excellent views of Mount Rainier and neighboring mountains.
External LinksThis is a National Forest Service Area Link.
This is an excellent page on Bearhead Mountain by Eric Willhite
Bearhead Mountain Peakbagger page