Bearhead Mountain & Summit Lake (Aug 4, 2012)

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bearhead_mtn_coverConditions: overnight backpack
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Bearhead Mountain
Area: Mt Rainier
Stats: 10.5mi, 2792' gain (round trip)

Nice weather. What to do? Plan an overnight. Make a call into a friend. Friend points out that it's going to be hot, dang HOT. Hmmm...overnight plans morph into plans for two easy-ish day trips.

Jim and I headed down towards Rainier early Saturday morning. Temps were expected to be in the 80's so we wanted an early start. Leaving the SE8th P&R on the east side we drove 405S>167S>410>165S...then where the road forks with the right branch heading up to Mowich Lk, we went left towards Fairfax (Carbon River Rd). The route then had us make a left onto FS 7810 (Cayada Ck Rd) and we followed it to the end, the TH, elevation ~4400'. The road is in OK shape, a bit washboarded and potholed in sections. But my regular clearance car made it to the TH. We were at the TH early and the lot was nearly full. There was a BCRT from WTA working to log out the trail up to summit lake.

NOTE: There are about 8 logs down across the trail up to Bearhead. Only one was a real pain (requiring crawling under the log) the rest are big enough to cause diversions but no real difficulty. The trail up to Summit Lk is clear.

The trail starts out in forest then there is about a 1/2 mile section of rough, cobbled, rutted trail through an old clear cut. The WTA BCRT was filling the ruts and repairing the trail. Thanks guyz! After that first 1/2 mile the trail goes into old forest, crossing into the Clearwater Wilderness. At about 1 mile (4800') the trail reaches Twin Lk. Jim and I headed left up to Bearhead wanting to get the harder part of the trip out of the way early.

From the junction, the trail does a long traverse along the west side of Bearhead and at about 2.5 miles in (~5350') from the TH reaches another older trail junction. There was a faint trail that continued right. We thought maybe it was an old social trail that goes to a campsite or overlook. After getting home, the map shows a trail that continues on to Hurricane Gap and then down Clearwater Ck. Looks like an interesting diversion. Jim and I instead headed left, north and up the ridge. At about 3.2 miles from the TH the trail hits the top and a short hike left took us to the old lookout site. Just off the LO site to the west were a pile of rocks with 3 benchmarks. Interesting. Here for me was a quick lunch and then we dropped down that first bit to the junction but continues going a couple of bumps to the east following a good boot path. Lots and lots of flowers out. Then it was time to head down.

We retraced our route back to the junction at Twin Lk. Looking to make it a decent mileage/elevation gain day we then headed up to Summit Lk which was about 1.6 miles and 900' gain (from Twin Lk junction). It was a nice visit to the lake. Lots of people dispersed about. Some camping. Some up for just the afternoon. It's surprisingly a gorgeous lake considering the easy access. We dozed around, time for photos, a short nap, dunk of the sore feet in the cool lake water, chatting with other hikers.

Finally, it was late enough to head down (Jim looking to avoid Seafair traffic on the bridges) so we packed out stuff up and out we went. Stats for the day: 10.5 miles, 2792' gain (round trip) Notes: bugs - not a problem, logs down (see above), no water from the Twin Lks junction to Bearhead Mtn.

More information on the lookout: This is a former lookout site. The L-4 cab was built in 1931 and destroyed in 1957.
Bearhead Mountain Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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