When the west slopes are still deep in snow, and you're hankering to get into some alpine terrain, Fifes Peaks just may fit the bill. Located right off of SR-410 just 12 miles east of Chinook Pass, the terrain around Fifes Peaks melts out early. Indeed, early season (May/June) is the ideal time to go, as later in the season, the approach will be bone-dry and hot. The volcanic complex, which contains three major peaks (East Peak, West Peak, and Northwest Peak) is composed of columnar andesite so characteristic of the Rainier area. The East Peak is a class 4 rock climb, while the Northwest and West Peaks are scrambles. The Northwest Peak is remotely situated at the far end of the complex, while the West and East Peaks are visible from the Highway. For a moderate early-season scramble, Fifes Peak's West Peak is a joy.
Drive SR-410 heading east over Chinook Pass. In about 12 miles find the trailhead to the Crow Lake Way Trail (Trail #953). The trailhead is 1.2 miles east of the Pleasant Valley Campground, and the elevation is 3,400 feet. Hike the Crow Lake Way trail five miles to a "grassy saddle" at 5,600 feet. From here, to your right(east) Fifes Peaks should be visible. The peak on the right, the East Peak, looks more dramatic than the higher West peak to the left. From the grassy saddle, head cross-country about 1.5 miles, traversing the west ridge of Fifes Peaks, finally gaining the ridge. Traverse to the base of the West Peak, finding breaks in the cliff bands to allow access to the summit ridge. DO NOT GO TO THE SADDLE BETWEEN THE EAST AND WEST PEAKS. From here, it is an easy class 2 scramble to the summit of the West Peak. When driving to Fifes Peaks, bear in mind that Chinook Pass (5,430 feet) often does not open up until after Memorial Day (late May). It is therefore essential to check with the Washington Department of Transportation to make sure that it is open. Otherwise, it is possible to reach the trailhead from Yakima.
Fifes Peaks are in the Norse Peak Wilderness, which is administered by the Naches Office of the Wenatchee National Forest. Self-service permits are available at the trailhead. You can contact the ranger office at: Naches Ranger District 510 Highway 12 Naches, WA 98937 (509) 653-1401
The Pleasant Valley Campground is located 1.2 miles west of the Crow Lake Way trailhead. It is located on the American River. Camping is available for a fee. Any camping on Fife's Peak would need to be in early season as the area is completely snow-free and dry afterwards.
The close proximity of Fifes Peaks to Highway 410 makes it possible any time of year. However, at its most enjoyable, it should be done from spring to early summer to take advantage of snowmelt. Of course, the timing can be tricky, because if you're coming from the West, Chinook Pass (5,430 feet) can often be closed until late May. Check with the Washington Department of Transportation at: WSDOT