Surprise Mountain, Near Surprise Gap
, 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 either Surprise Gap or Pieper Pass.
This route to the summit of Surprise Mountain is approximately 7.6 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 either Surprise Gap or Pieper Pass.
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.
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.
3) Follow the PCT for 2.3 miles to either Surprise Gap (5800' elevation) or Pieper Pass (6000' elevation).
3a) Once the PCT reaches a meadow basin southeast of Glacier Lake, either: continue south up a steep talus slope trail to Surprise Gap, or follow the PCT west up a talus slope trail to Pieper Pass.
3b) Some of the best views of Glacier Lake and Surprise Lake can be seen from the rocky talus slopes surrounding the northern and eastern sides of Surprise Mountain.
Approaching Surprise Gap
4) Once arrived at either Surprise Gap or Pieper Pass, follow a boot trail for approximately 0.6 miles to the summit of Surprise Mountain.
4a) For a summit approach from Surprise Gap, the summit trail traverses along the southern slopes of Surprise Mountain before heading north to the summit.
4b) For a summit approach from Pieper Pass, the summit trail ascends the northwestern side of Surprise Mountain to the summit.
***As can be imagined from this route description, it is possible to create a trip "loop" to/from the summit of Surprise Mountain by ascending one side of the peak and descending another side of the peak, rejoining the PCT at the meadow basin located southeast of Glacier Lake.***
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.
No essential gear is needed outside of "10 Essentials" and standard hiking gear/attire.
Reference Green Trails Map #176 for route and topography information.
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 Surprise Mountain is located northeast of the peak, near Surprise Lake.