Windy Peak is the easternmost Washington Top 100 mountain. It is roughly 93rd-highest in the state. It is located about 5 miles south of the Canadian border in the Pasayten Wilderness in the far northeast part of the Washington Cascades. Like Pikes Peak in Colorado, the mountain would be correctly called a monadnock* (aka inselberg)--an isolated mountain along a long, high divide of similar mountains extending northward roughly 35 miles from Loup Loup Pass to Horseshoe Mountain, which is about 4 miles NNE of Windy Peak. Another prominent peak on this high divide which separates the Chewuch/Methow River drainage from the Okanogan River drainiage, is 8,245-ft Tiffany Mountain
15 miles to the south. Windy Peak is the highest summit and northend anchor of this high divide.
Below timberline, the mountain is characterized by gentle forests, open forests, and leas. Above timberline can be found a few rocky areas, but mostly the greater portion of the upper mountain is just a sandy plateau. The summit rocks form a small 300-ft pyramid when viewed from this plateau to the south. If coming from the south, one can make a fun, blocky scramble up the south side of this pyramid or keep to the trail as it crosses a shallow west-facing basin to the easy West Ridge/side. A trail zigzags all the way to the summit on this western side. The views from Windy Peak are vast. On an unhazy day, you would easily be able to see as far as Mt. Baker 75+ miles to the west. Unfortunately for me, I visited this mountain while the large Deer Point forest fire was raging 75 miles to the SSW at the southeast end of Lake Chelan. The ensuing haze obscured a lot of distant views.
* note: the word monadnock comes from Mt. Monadnock
in New Hampshire. The word is Native American for "stands alone."
If you live in the Puget Sound country it will be a long drive to get to Windy Peak. Once you drive to the region north of Chelan, you have two options for approaching the mountain.
The first and quickest would be to drive north up the Okanogan River valley on US-97. At either the town of Tonasket or Ellisforde cross the river and then head west on Loomis-Oroville Road. Locate Toats Coulee Road north of Loomis and drive this well-maintained logging road (paved at first but later gravel) all the way west to Long Swamp Camp (approximately 22 miles). This is where the 7-mile Windy Peak Trail begins. Or continue west 3 miles to Windy Creek Trail, which is a shorter route to the summit. This trail is 5 miles to the summit. There is a third trail ESE of the summit that begins at Irongate. This trail, which starts near Hodges Horse Pasture, would be about 6 miles long but would involve more downs and ups than the former two routes. This trail junctions with the Windy Peak Trail about 2 miles south of the summit. The 7-mile-long narrow-track road to Irongate cuts off from Toats Coulee Road at about 15 miles. This would be a more solitary and adventurous way to climb the peak.
The second and longer (though perhaps more scenic) way to drive to the peak would be via FS-39 along the high divide between Tiffany Mountain and Windy Peak. From a start on Chewuch River Road about 7 miles north of Winthrop, take Boulder Creek Road (FS-37) east into the hills for about 12 miles then head over Freezeout Pass and then generally northward on FS-39 past Tiffany Spring Campground (elevation 6,770 ft). Maybe about 20 miles later you'll arrive at Long Swamp Camp, which is the start of the Windy Peak Trail. The road along the high divide north of Tiffany Mountain is comprised of some picturesque meadows (some of which are marshy) such as Thirtymile Meadows. This is a high road that would probably only be open from July through September. Note: do not take these road numbers as gospel as they do change from time to time.
Permits are not required as far as I know, though signing a trailhead register might be requested. That blasted Trail Park Pass was asked for at Long Swamp Camp, so I parked a quarter-mile to the south at the horse corral instead. Doubtful, though, that the area is patrolled.
When To Climb
A climb of Windy Peak would depend on access. If you could get to it in winter or spring (Long Swamp Camp is at 5,500 ft), Windy Peak would make for an excellent back country ski tour. If there's no snow, trails can be followed to the summit. The Windy Peak Trail ascends sharply from Long Swamp Camp to Hickey Hump then contours around Hickey Hump on the high, gentle ridge to the south slopes of Windy Peak. There was a burn here (see this picture: Hickey Hump Fire
) in August 2001 that one must hike through, but the trail is still present. The smell of the burned out area is what will strike you most. Some of the damage was severe. The best time to enjoy the floriferous flowers in the meadows south of the peak would be July.
Plenty of camping is available at Long Swamp Camp. The camp has a fence around it to keep the cattle out. In fact, that's a good thing because I came upon the largest bull I'd ever seen. Fortunately, I was safe in my car at the time. The bull was not interested in me. He wasn't interested in getting out of my way on the road either, but he was the boss. One could also camp on the south slopes or the southern plateau of Windy Peak. When I was there in late-July 2002 there was a sizable snowpatch or two on the southeast side of the plateau, so water would most likely be available into September (but don't quote me on that!).
It can be hot or cold or in between in the Pasayten. Ordinarily, you won't get much rainfall as the wilderness is far east of the Cascade Crest. When I was there in late-July 2002, the weather was sunny and warm (though hazy from a distant forest fire) but the morning was cool. By afternoon it could be downright sweltering, so take lots of water. The weather was not at all windy while I was there, so I'm not sure exactly why it would be called by that name.