From the trailhead, the Summit Lake Trail begins by climbing up through a young forest still in the process of recovering from a recent harvest. Soon you enter more mature stands of fir and hemlock as the trail swings into long switchbacks up the mountainside. After about a mile of trail reach a junction with the Carbon River Trail and Twin Lake. A short, unmarked trail leads out to lonely Twin Lake, which lacks both a twin and the impressive landscape waiting at Summit Lake.
Push on from the junction to one of the steeper sections of the hike, following the trail as it quickly ascends the ridgeline. Roughly 2.5 miles from the trailhead, emerge from the woods into the grassy meadows surrounding Summit Lake. If you’re up for more, the trail splits into a loop, winding around the lake and up to the top of Summit Lake Peak. There is often wildlife found in the meadows, including bear, deer, marmot and elk.
The side trail to the Summit Peak is rough, steep and narrow, but the rewards are worth the extra effort. From the top, the deep blue of Summit Lake competes with the white flanks of Mount Rainier. Beyond that, an ocean of mountaintops spreads out in every direction, with far too many peaks to name.
Backpacking Tip: There are several campsites available around Summit Lake on the NE side and S sides of the lake, offering up more exploration opportunities on the nearby Carbon River and Bearhead Mountain Trails. Note that campfires are prohibited in the Summit Lake basin. And please use the wilderness toilets to go to the bathroom.
- 6.1 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1,300 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,800 feet
Hiking Summit Lake
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.0319, -121.8269 Open in Google Maps