Bearhead Mountain & Summit Lake

Janet joined me for a trip to the area just northwest of Mt. Rainier. I first visited Bearhead Mountain and Summit Lake on a very hot day in 2010. Reading back over my report from that day, I could have just cut and pasted it here. Almost the same weather, flowers, and number of other hikers. Instead, I will go ahead and describe this trip. It was supposed to be the hottest day of the year. It was. We met in Bellevue at 6:15 am and headed south. Down the Carbon River Road until just before the National Park boundary then across the bridge and on to the end at the 4300' trailhead. Even at 8:00 am the lot was nearly half full. A WTA work party was there to work on the trail.

The route begins in an old clear cut. The trail is very deeply rutted at first. On our way down we saw where the workers had filled in chunks of the ruts making for a much easier to hike trail. Soon the route enters older forest and the trail improves markedly. The route enters the Clearwater Wilderness and continues to climb at a gentle rate. The junction for the trail to Bearhead Mountain is at Twin Lake after about a mile. I recalled flowers here and it was the same as in 2010. Avalanche lilies, shooting stars, and marsh marigolds primarily. Avalanche lilies continued most of the way to the summit as either flowers or seed pods.

It was comfortably warm when we started and became continuously warmer. The route traverses across the side of Bearhead and is mostly in the forest. That made it much cooler. There are a number of short open meadows and they all have blooming wildflowers. Lots of color from tiger lilies, columbine, lupine, and others. There were 7 or 8 trees down on the traverse. Several were big enough to cause us to inch our way underneath. Most were no problem. We finally  reached the far ridge. A trail continues along the ridge but our route made a sharp left turn and began to ascend the ridge.

The way goes in and out of forest and the wildflowers become much more numerous. Though many flowers are finishing down low the flower show is closer to peaking higher up. Soon we began to see the magenta Indian paintbrush seen mostly at Mt. Rainier. Fields of magenta paintbrush and white avalanche lilies. Throw in lots of yellows and whites and the color show was outstanding. The western anemone have already turned to their shaggy head stage. One group passed us as we slowed way down to enjoy the colors. In the open it was now much hotter so the shade that was available was much appreciated.

The trail pops out on the summit ridge and a left turn and short climb brought us to the summit. The larger group that passed us was there so we headed a short way over to a rocky viewpoint. Lots of benchmarks there. I posted photos on my 2010 report so no need to take more. We could see out to Summit Lake. No snow apparent. As the day grew much hotter we did not look forward to dropping below the lake and then having to climb back up to it. There was no snow on the trail coming up but there is still snow on and just across the ridge top. Plenty to melt for water for a few more weeks at least.

The ridge top has some excellent displays of avalanche lilies and magenta paintbrush. What I have not mentioned is the fantastic view of Mt. Rainier so close by. It grew hazy later in the day but was nice and clear in the morning light. We could also see far out to Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Stuart. It was buggy at the old lookout site on the summit but not bad anywhere else all day. As two years earlier I it was soon time to check out the ridge of the summit ridge. A bootpath continues through patches of wildflowers along the ridge. Farther along we reached the other groups and turned around.  We reached the summit at about 10:30 and started down just after 11:30.

The flower show near the top was amazing and we went through it just as slowly while hiking down. I definitely stocked up with a year's supply of magenta paintbrush photos. One open spot on the ridge was extremely hot but we were soon back in forest once again. Two and a half miles later we were back at Summit Lake. Although neither of us handle heat well, Janet and I chose to climb up to Summit Lake. I expected to see a lot more people on that trail and so we did. Still, it was never crowded. The trail to the lake is in forest until just before the lake. This coincided with the best avalanche lily fields of the day. They were as thick as blades of grass. We passed the meadow and headed down to the lake. There is a big pond right before the lake. More flowers on the drop to Summit Lake.

At the lake we found several groups of hikers. It is a big lake and we found a spot along the shore. The water was nice and cool and a cool breeze was blowing. That minimized any bug problem and provided much appreciated a moderation of the heat. For the next hour we either relaxed in the shade or photographed more avalanche lily meadows. We reached the lake at about 2:00 pm and stayed until almost 4:00 pm. It was a slow paced relaxing day with lots of laying around. Just the ticket when it is approaching 90 degrees. We had one small climb up from the lake then it was all a gentle descent back to the car. As mentioned we were impressed with the work done to fill in the rutted trail near the bottom. Back at the trailhead at around 5:00 pm we found 36 cars. Lots of cars though we did not see many people all day.

We were hoping to get in some easy miles with wildflowers and some cooling at a high mountain lake. Check on each and every one. For the day we hiked about 10 miles with 2500' of elevation gain. Most of the gain was done in the cooler morning. Most of the afternoon was in dark forest or in the shade at the lake. It was much more comfortable than roasting in the city. Although it is already August the flower show was great. Better than I was expecting. With all this heat the flowers will not last many more weeks. Great views from the summit of Bearhead too. The hike to Summit Lake is awfully short but when combined with Bearhead Mountain it makes for a great day of hiking.

Parking Lot
Twin Lake
Shooting Stars
Traversing Bearhead Mt.
Lone Tiger Lily
Multiple Tiger Lilies
Magenta Paintbrush
Forest & Meadows
Close Up Paintbrush
Lots Of Color
Shaggy Heads
Janet On Trail
Beargrass Opening
Paintbrush Cluster
Lots Of Flowers
Great Variety
Better Than Expected
Terrific Colors
Slow Progress
Rainier Vista
Willis Wall
Beargrass & Lupine
Nice Combination
Bearhead Summit
Snow On Ridge
Summit Lake View
Twin Lilies
Ridge Lilies
Rainier & Flowers
Seldom Seen Avy Lilies
Ascending Ridge
Heading Down
Blooming Beargrass
Yellow Now
Janet At Work
Red, White, Blue, Yellow
Many Magenta
Flowers Continue
Trail Views
Thick With Avys
Meadow Near Lake
Almost To Lake
Summit Lake View
Other End
Blooms & Buds
Close Up Lily
Almost Perfection
Folks At Lake
More Avy Lilies
Lilies At Lake
Back To Meadows
Clearwater Wilderness
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012