Ever notice how views from super high peaks are the least impressive? Looking down upon other summits, sometimes it harder to make out specific details. The most pleasing views come from the mid-sized peaks which are surrounded by larger peaks. This is the case with Red Mountain. Red Mountain is a high point on Phelps Ridge, surrounded by the giants of the Entiat Range, some of the largest peaks in Washington State. Red Mountain is just 3 miles west of Mount Fernow, the highest peak in the Entiat Range. Honestly, the views from Red are some of the best I have seen in Washington. When you reach the summit, you won't want to leave.
Josh Lewis On The Summit
Red Mountain rises 2500 feet from the Phelps Creek drainage on the east side as well as the Chiwawa River basin to the west. The miners and early settlers of the area knew it as "Red Hill". The color of the rock comes from the erosion of disseminated pyrite. This peak is located just 10 miles east of the White Chuck center of volcanic activity, which is now Glacier Peak. Much of the rock in this area can be traced back to volcanic origins. Incredibly, sizable specimens of pumice rock can be found high on the western slopes of Red Mountain and perhaps elsewhere on Phelps Ridge.
The East Face
Cliff bands and rotten rock on the east face make the west face and north ridge the only feasible ascent routes. The view of the east face from Spider Meadows is an impressive sight. Most visitors to Chiwawa meadows and the Chiwawa River basin come for Fortress Mountain and Chiwawa Mountain. But many leave having climbed all three. Red Mountain is certainly the easiest of the group, but reaching the summit does require route finding skills as well as off-trail travel on loose rocks. Near the summit there is some very easy class 3 scrambling which some folks might insist is nothing more than class 2.
High On The West Face
West Face - Chiwawa River Basin
Take the Red Mountain trail. At 3.7 miles you will come to a junction where a smaller less developed trail cuts slightly downhill to the left. Continue forward on the larger trail and do not descend into the basin on the left. If you come to multiple switchbacks going uphill, you are going in the right direction. This trail follows the old Red Mountain road which was used for access to mining claims.
The Summit Block
There will be a few creek crossings, even late in summer. After the last switchback in the road, at 5950 feet, there will be a large open meadow on the uphill side of the road. This is the best place to head uphill. During the summer this meadow is home to many species of wildflowers. At the head of the meadow are some small cliffs. Before the cliffs, cut to the left onto the minor ridge. Ascend through some trees and small bushes until you reach the loose open rock above.
If you are interested, watch for bits and pieces of light grey colored pumice in this area. Continue to ascend loose rock until reaching the ridge crest. Here, views of the popular Entiat peaks to the east, really start to open up, while the views to the west were already good. Turn north and walk/scramble to the summit.
Spider Gap, Bonanza Peak, Dumbell Mountain
North Ridge - Spider Meadows
I am not personally familiar with this route, so I will only give a rough outline from what is described in Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guide. Follow the Phelps Creek trail to the Spider Glacier and ascend in a southward direction over loose rocks to the saddle north of Red Mountain. Two gendarmes north of the summit can be bypassed. Continue to scramble to the summit.
Getting There / Driving Directions
Chiwawa River Basin
From Highway 2, look for the exit signs to Lake Wenatchee and then proceed to the bridge over the outlet stream from Lake Wenatchee and bear right. Find the signs to Chiwawa River Road and proceed to the end at about 24 miles.
From Highway 2, look for the exit signs to Lake Wenatchee and then proceed to the bridge over the outlet stream from Lake Wenatchee and bear right. Find the signs to Chiwawa River Road and proceed 23 miles to a fork. Turn right on Phelps Creek Trailhead Road and continue for another mile to the end.
Camping / Red Tape
Red Mountain Seen From Chiwawa Meadows
Camping is allowed in Spider Meadows and Chiwawa Basin.
Chiwawa Basin is a lush, unspoiled, alpine meadow, surrounded by high ridges and snowy peaks. Small groves of trees are scattered among wild grasses. The Chiwawa River winds through the valley and deer forage here in the mornings. It is an ideal camp spot. It's worth staying the night in this pristine environment even though Red Mountain can be done in a single day.
A trail head park pass required. There are a few fee stations on the Chiwawa River Road.
When To Go
A Deer In Chiwawa Meadows
You will want to wait until the Chiwawa River Road is melted out to Trinity and beyond. The trailhead is at 2,800 feet but it's pretty deep into the cascades so probably mid-June on the average year.