6.1 miles roundtrip
At a glance: Moderate hike for all levels of hikers with views of Mount Rainier from the top. Cool off in this Alpine lake if you fancy a swim!
What's included: Pick-up from hotel/home/airbnb and transport to trailhead, trailhead permit and passes, lunch, snacks, equipment, and drop-off back to home base. $199/person.
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 we 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.
We will 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.