Bearhead Mountain & Summit Lake

A hot weekend was on tap and I wanted easy hikes that wouldn't burn me out with the afternoon heat. For Saturday I decided on a trip I've known about for years but never done. The northwest corner of Mt. Rainier National Park has trailheads at Carbon River and Mowich Lake. I've visited both numerous times. On the north side of the Carbon River is the Clearwater Wilderness and trails to Bearhead Mountain and Summit Lake. They start at the same place.

I drove up the road along the Carbon River and found the bridge over the river. It is just before the entrance to the park. About seven miles up the Cayada Creek Road is the trailhead. I arrived at about 8:30 am. I was surprised to find 7 or 8 cars in the lot. It was plenty warm already. There are some flowers along the lower trail. In one mile I reached Twin Lake and the junction. Right is to Bearhead and left to Summit Lake.

Bugs were minimal in the parking lot but noticeable at the lake. Still not too bad. It is damp near the lake and I began to see shooting stars and avalanche lilies. The lilies were much smaller than ones I've seen at Summerland and Spray Park but they were plenty thick. Some were already done but most were right near the peak. The trail is gently graded as it contours around Bearhead Mountain. No trail crews have been at work so far this year. There are several trees down across the trail. Branches have been broken off and none are very hard to get around.

The traverse is in forest but a few short open stretches provide views out. Mt. Rainier comes into view here. The trail crosses to the far ridge of Bearhead. The main trail continues right but looks seldom used. Turning left and heading up the ridge is the wider more used trail to the summit. Forest soon gives way to more open meadows. I had seen some magenta Indian paintbrush all along the trail but it grows much thicker from here to the top. Views out get better too. I switchbacked up the slope and continued to the summit ridge. The lookout site is just a minute or so to the left. There was no snow on the trail. Below the summit is a large flat meadow and the slope down still has snow. One could camp high and melt snow for water, at least for a few weeks more.

There were bugs on the summit but not enough to break out the deet. My GPS showed one mile to the Twin Lake junction and 2.15 miles more to the summit. It was only 10:10 on top so I took a nice long break. I passed on hiker on my way up. He must have been on top hours before me and had great lighting. It still was pretty good for me. I wanted to get up before the afternoon glare washed out the mountain.

Next I dropped to the summit junction and continued down the summit ridge. There are several more bumps along the ridge. None are as high as the lookout site though not much lower either. The ridge had lots of magenta paintbrush and avalanche lilies in bloom. Very very nice. The last bump is a minor scramble. I enjoyed some slightly different views and headed back to the summit. The morning was clear enough to see Mt. Stuart, the Snoqualmie Pass crest peaks, Glacier Peak, and even Mt. Baker far to the north.

It was 11:30 by the time I was ready to leave. A beautiful summit and no other folks around. Not bad solitude for a popular trailhead. On the way back to Twin Lake I met half a dozen groups hiking up. An early start allowed me to have the summit to myself. From the junction it's 1.55 miles to Summit Lake. The day was heating up fast but the gentle grade and forest cover kept me from overheating.

Meadows began to appear the last half mile with lots of avalanche lilies and paintbrush. I don't often see either the avalanches or magenta paintbrush so I spent lots of time with the camera out. I arrived to see a small lake then the real thing behind it. Summit Lake is larger than I was expecting. Near the lake  the meadows are covered with avalanche lilies. As thick as I have seen anywhere. Very, very, very nice. As expected there were folks all around the lake but I had no trouble finding a secluded spot along the shore.

It was still only 1:15 at the lake and I had plenty of time to lay back and enjoy. It was toasty but not as bad as being at home. The trailhead is at 4350'. Bearhead is 6089'. Summit lake is at 5440'. The high trailhead helped make the trip a little cooler. High but not so high as to mean no tall trees for shade. The best of all worlds. With only 2 1/2 downhill miles the hike out was no problem. I reached the trailhead at 3:00 pm to find 43 cars in the lot. I saw a number of hikers but it did not seen like that many.

All in all I found exactly what I was looking for. Really nice mountain views including a really close up look at Mt. Rainier. Solitude on the summit. Lots of flowers including some I seldom see. Topped off with a nice big high mountain lake. It was very hot at the trailhead but I was soon on my way down. I'm sure this will not be my last visit.

Flowers Near Trailhead
Delicate Flower
Clearwater Wilderness
First Avalanche Lily
Shooting Stars
Willis Wall
View Of Mt. Rainier
Rainier Ice
Yellow Flower
Meadows On Slope
Magenta Paintbrush
Paintbrush & Violets
Rainier & Little Tahoma
Glacier Peak
Mt. Baker
Snow Below Ridge
Reference Mark
Distant Summit Lake
Another Lake
Rainier From Lookout Site
Summit Ridge Lilies
Another Yellow Flower
Lone Paintbrush
Sun On Meadows
Western Anemone
Bright Magenta
Twin Lake
Pond Before Summit Lake
Bearhead & Rainier
Avalanche Lily Patches
Summit Lake
Avy Lilies Close Up
Very Nice
Avy Lilies Everywhere
Lily Trail Border
Lot Is Now Full
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010