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Summit Lake

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Imagine hiking in Mount Rainier National Park without having to deal with the crowds and the Park Service regulations and restrictions. That's basically what you have here: a short hike so close to the big mountain that you'll feel like you're right on the flank of Mount Rainier. But as you trek up the easy trail, you'll seldom be bothered by any other hikers, especially when visiting on weekdays. Summit Lake, a picturesque little alpine lake with glorious views of Rainier, is the reward.

The trail climbs through a brush-filled clear-cut before diving under the thick canopy of dense second-growth forest. You'll continue to climb, swinging wide across a steep hillside before reaching a trail junction and a small tarn at 1 mile. The pond, Twin Lake (why is a single lake named twin?), is little more than a mosquito nursery much of the summer, so you won't want to linger.

Go left at the trail junction to loop around the western side of the lake basin before climbing the wall to the north of the lake. After 1 mile of climbing, the trail traverses west along the ridge, breaking out of the forest periodically for nice views south to Mount Rainier.

At 2.5 miles the trail slides along the shore of Summit Lake (elev. 5400 ft). This lake is a true alpine lake--wide, cold, and crystal clear. On calm, clear days the lake is a mirrorlike surface that reflects massive Mount Rainier. Wildflowers dot the lakeshores, providing color from the moment the snow melts off (avalanche and glacier lilies) to late summer (spreading phlox and paintbrush). In between you'll find beargrass, lupine, and others too numerous to name.

There are campsites around the lake and additional trail miles above the lake bowl for those who just can't bring themselves to leave the lovely basin.
Driving Directions:

From Enumclaw drive west on State Route 410 (Chinook Pass Highway) to SR 165. Proceed on SR 165 to the Carbon River Road/Mowich Lake Highway junction. Turn left onto Carbon River Road and follow it to Cayada Creek Road (Forest Road 7810), just before the national park entrance. Turn left (north) and drive about 6.8 miles to the trailhead at the end of FR 7810.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 127 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Bearhead Mountain, Summit Lake — Mar 15, 2014 — Jeb
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Avalanche danger | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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This was my and Colin's first outing with the Mountaineers. When we saw a new summit listed as the d...
This was my and Colin's first outing with the Mountaineers. When we saw a new summit listed as the destination for a conditioner we jumped at the opportunity to avoid a weekend trip to Mount Si. With no recent beta I set my expectations low as our convoy climbed as close to the trailhead as the snow would allow. We made it to about 3600' and after a quick weigh in we were breaking trail under rolling snow clouds. The overcast layer slowly rose through the day and provided several sun breaks, as well as a few brief flurries.

Bearhead and Pitcher Mountains each came into view during the roadwalk. We reached the trailhead in just over an hour. Twin Lake was hardly noticeable under snow when we cruised past it. Beyond the lake snowshoeing was a pain on the steep traverse and the trail became faint. Beyond that the slopes grew steeper as we climbed higher, some of us even debated switching to crampons. Around 5500' we reached a clearing with a nice little bench just in time for a short break. Beyond Cayada Mountain Tolmie, Howard and Florence were capped in snow.

A short alpine bushwhack later and we were on mellow slopes looking at The Cascades to the north and the summit above us. Considerable avalanche danger made the simplest approach more dangerous than necessary so we crossed mellow open slopes to the base of a tiny north ridge and climbed up to evaluate a summit approach from the east. The risk was deemed to high so we hunkered down for lunch. As we ate I noticed Lake Washington and the skyscrapers in Seattle in the distance.

On our descent the group consensus favored avoiding the steep traverse so we continued straight down to Coplay Lake, navigating around a small cliff band along the way. We log hopped around the north side of the lake and followed the spur road back to our tracks. It would have been nice to have reached the summit, but thanks to the added distance and elevation on the road we did meet the conditioner credit.

pictures @ http://www.jebsjourneys.com/[…]/bearhead-mountain-attempt-3-15-2014.html
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Summit Lake — Oct 20, 2013 — Barnkat
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail
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I had not been up to Summit Lake this year and longing for sun in the land of the forever fog, so th...
I had not been up to Summit Lake this year and longing for sun in the land of the forever fog, so the trip was planned. We arrived at the trail head at 7AM and had it to ourselves. Began the trip in the dark attempting to be on top for sunrise but missed it by about 20 min. The trail is in great shape-the rocky uneven area at the start much improved from a WTA work party this year. (Thanks!!) 3 recent blow downs over trail but all were easy to climb over. Snow on the trail near the lake which was not a problem with boots as it has been packed down from previous hikers. Beautiful views-Mt Baker, Mt. Stuart, the Enchantment peaks and the top of Mt St Helens and all that fog down below. A wonderful Sunday hike. (Thank goodness for Thursday night football-GO SEAHAWKS!!)
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Summit Lake — Oct 04, 2013 — JeffCollier
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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The snow at Summit Lake was close to two feet-deep, and the entire western ridge was difficult to tr...
The snow at Summit Lake was close to two feet-deep, and the entire western ridge was difficult to traverse for snow. With temperatures in the high 40s and sun, the snow in the trees melted and rained on us throughout. And we'd do it again in a heartbeat.

In a small sedan, the 6.7 mile forest road took at least 30 minutes to climb given the rocks and ruts.
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Summit Lake — Sep 13, 2013 — ZebW
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Fall foliage | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns
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Did this hike on Friday after work and loved it! Got to the trail head at 6:20 and were in a rush to...
Did this hike on Friday after work and loved it! Got to the trail head at 6:20 and were in a rush to get up there (more on this later).

First to clear up some of whats been said about the road. It is bumpy, rocky and rough at points. I won't disagree with that. But to say only a lifted 4x4 can make it is ridiculous. I took my 4Runner (which sucks gas) because i was worried about the road. I could have taken my Matrix. My friend said he would have taken his Mazda 3. I even saw a Prius going up there. So there you have it. Don't let someone scare you into thinking the road is horrible. It is bumpy but its totally doable in most any car.

Regarding bugs...neither of us used bug spray at all, and were in shorts and not bites. We did hear a loud hum from bugs but never saw them. We even slept outside in our sleeping bags and didn't use the tent.

We left Saturday morning and saw roughly 10-15 people coming up before 10am which was crazy. Didn't think it would be that busy.


Also, DON'T camp in the meadow! We were running late and didn't see the sign and put our tent on the ednge of the meadow. Someone came by and told us if a ranger saw us we would get fined. So we took down the tent and just slept in our bags.

Lots of little trout jumping as well as tons of huckleberries.
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Summit Lake — Sep 09, 2013 — Cliff birdsall
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Bugs
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This was my third time up to this lake and even though I konw what to expect, I think I look forward...
This was my third time up to this lake and even though I konw what to expect, I think I look forward to it a little more each time. This place is nothing short of incredible. The next time up I would like to do an overnight and bring a little inflatable kayak to cruise the lake in. I would also like to catch some of the fish I see jumping while sitting by the lake. From the trailhead you will take a quick left (don't go towards the picnic table) and the trail is in great condition. It is a little damp due to the recent rains but very nice. Continue straight on at the twin lakes junction (going right will take you to Bearhead Mountain). There is one blowdown blocking the trail, but this is easily passed on the right. Continue on to the lake and here you have some choices. You can either call it a day and take in the lake or go around and explore. Go explore! If you are not too tired take the trail to the left and go up the steep side. From the end of the main trail you are looking at a hill across the lake - this is your objective. Once up the hill you will have great views of the lake from above and you will see the most blue water you have ever seen. Turn around and you will have unobstructed views of Mt. Rainier and Bearhead Mountain. Walk out onto the rocks and have lunch. It is a great spot. Continue to circle the lake and soon you will have some great photo opportunities to have the lake, Bearhead, and Rainier in the same photo. There really isn't a bad picture here. Continue back around to the main trail and relax. Give yourself a few extra hours to just sit. There is a great meadow to lay in, or just sit by the lakeshore and take it in. This really is a great place. If you go during the week you may just have it to yourself.
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summit lake hiking queen.jpg
WTA worked here!
2012, 2013
Location
Summit Lake (#1177)
Mt. Rainier
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 5.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1200 ft
Highest Point 5400 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
Wildlife
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails Enumclaw No. 237

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerSummit Lake
47.0318666667 -121.826866667
  • BCRT 2013
  • BCRT 2012
(47.0319, -121.8269) Open in new window
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