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 higher and should be considered the true summit.
Avalanche Lillies near Wagonwheel Lake
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.
Mount Rose and Lake Cushman below
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.
The 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.
Scrambling to the summit
Near the north end of the town of Hoodsport along US HWY 101, turn west on Lake Cushman Road (big signs on the highway with brown background mark the road) and follow it about 9 miles to a T-intersection with Forest Service Road 24. Turn left at the "T" and drive another 6 miles or so along Lake Cushman to the road end at the Staircase Ranger Station about a mile inside the Olympic National Park boundary. Take the Wagonwheel Lake trail which starts behind the ranger station near the back of the overflow parking area.
Hike 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.
Copper Mountain East Summit with Main Summit visible
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.
view of Mount Washington
To get into Staircase, you will have to pass the Park Service guard station on the road and pay the entrance fee which is currently $15 per vehicle and is good for 7 days. Of course the $30 annual Olympic National Park Pass or the America the Beautiful Pass
will get you access.
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.
view of Mount Stone
For more information:
Olympic National Park Phone -- (360)565-3130
Olympic National Park website info
Copper Mountain is easily a day trip, but camping at the Staircase Campground for a few days makes exploring other regional attractions quite convenient.
view of Sawtooth Ridge and Mount Cruiser
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.