Surprise Creek-Pieper Pass-Spark Plug Summit

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Washington, United States, North America
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Hiking, Mountaineering
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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Most of a day

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Surprise Creek-Pieper Pass-Spark Plug Summit
Created On: Mar 19, 2009
Last Edited On: Mar 19, 2009


Route to Pieper PassSpark Plug Mountain, As Seen East Of Pieper Pass

Spark Plug Mountain, located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington State, can be reached from multiple trails and directions. The most direct established route from a parking trailhead, however, is via Surprise Creek Trail #1060 to Pieper Pass.

This route to the summit of Spark Plug Mountain is approximately 8.0 miles long, each direction. The route starts at an elevation of 2200', following the Surprise Creek drainage before joining the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Pieper Pass.

Route Description

Surprise Creek TrailSurprise Lake

1) Hike south along Surprise Creek Trail #1060 for 4.0 miles until reaching the outlet of Surprise Lake (4500' elevation).

1a) Surprise Creek is crossed a couple of times during this stretch of the route.
1b) The outlet of Surprise Lake is located on the west side of the trail.

Route to Pieper PassGlacier Lake

2) A trail intersection occurs near the outlet of Surprise Lake. Continue south along the main trail (Surprise Creek Trail #1060) for 0.7 miles further until just (before) north of Glacier Lake (4900' elevation). DO NOT take the trail to the east, which leads to Trap Pass.

2a) This stretch of route passes by Surprise Lake, on the west side of the trail.
2b) This stretch of route ends at an intersection with the PCT. Continue south (straight) along the PCT.

Route to Pieper PassDescending From Pieper Pass

3) Follow the PCT for 2.3 miles to Pieper Pass (6000' elevation).

3a) Make certain to follow the PCT west from a meadow area (5000' elevation) southeast of Glacier Lake. Heading due south from the meadow would lead to Surprise Gap, Surprise Mountain, and Deception Lakes.
3b) Some of the best views of Glacier Lake and Surprise Lake can be seen from the rocky talus slope leading from the meadow area to Pieper Pass.
Spark Plug MountainSpark Plug Summit

4) From Pieper Pass, follow the boot trail, rough ridgeline, and false summits for approximately 1.0 miles until reaching the summit of Spark Plug Mountain (6311' elevation).

Getting There

1) Drive US Highway 2 to mile marker 58.7, between the town of Skykomish and Stevens Pass.

2) Turn south onto an unmarked road to the service center for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

3) Cross the railroad tracks.

4) Turn onto the spur road on the far right. Continue for 0.2 miles to the trailhead.

Essential Gear

No essential gear is needed outside of "10 Essentials" and standard hiking gear/attire.

Reference Green Trails Map #176 for route and topography information.

Red Tape

ALL visitors to the the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are required to have a Wilderness Permit from May 15 to October 31. Wilderness permits are free and can be obtained at parking trailheads and local ranger stations.*

If parking a vehicle in the region, the trailheads within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness require a Northwest Forest Pass. A single-day Northwest Forest Pass costs $5, while an annual Northwest Forest Pass costs $30. Northwest Forest Passes can be purchased from ranger stations or REI stores (if not also other outdoor recreation stores) within Washington State.


Although several rugged campsites are found at various locations along this route, camping in these locations is NOT permitted.

The closest permitted (designated) campsite near Spark Plug Mountain is located northeast of the peak, near Surprise Lake.