Our newest adventure was up to Summit Lake. Again was my husband and I as well as our two daughters they’re 9 and 14. Was a fantastic hike. Even though we’re well into July it wasn’t hot. So that was convenient, not only keeping us cool but I feel like the weather kept a lot of people away on a holiday weekend and even the bugs. Was nice to have the trail pretty much to ourselves.
Anyways, before I get ahead of myself the ride there let’s talk about that first. The road up to Summit Lake is a very primitive forest service road 7810. It isn’t maintained. Has to be one of the most rugged and bumpy forest service roads I’ve been on in along time. The ruts from water run off and larger exposed rocks, sometimes even boulders aren’t forgiving. Thankfully we took our pickup because we’ve heard that it’s best to have a high clearance vehicle for this ride. This is very true, but it isn’t impossible for a lower clearance car to make it. You’re just going to find yourself taking longer to get to the trail head. Took us almost an hour to make it six miles on this road. Weren’t trying to beat up the truck. Didn’t need to blow a ball joint or tie rod. Let me tell you though once you make it about halfway even though the ride sucks it’s rewarding. Amazing waterfalls on this road heading to the trail head. Definitely worth stopping to admire.
Once you’re at the trail head there is a large dirt parking area. When we were here there were many trucks, SUV’s and a few cars. If I were to of guessed maybe 12-16 cars parked. So wasn’t to bad. We made it to the parking area around 9 a.m.
Got our packs on and started our hike. Trail started out nice, slight incline, a couple switchbacks in the beginning. You cross over a nice wooden bridge that is over top a small creek/waterfall. The wind off the water was brisk. Made for a nice spot to take some photos. Continuing on the hike we continued to climb at a moderate rate. Nothing that was too hard or unbearable. My kids weren’t complaining so that’s always nice. The forest was very thick, super dense. Not much for clearings or distant views (not that we would had much of one anyways, was super cloudy.) the forest scenery was nice. Lots of moss on the trees, wild flowers were extremely plentiful. So many different types and shades of colors. Loved stopping to admire them all. The smell too. If I could’ve captured the smell in one of my photo’s you better believe I would’ve. It smelt strong of pine and noble. Was so fresh. It’s a smell that never gets old. A smell that you can’t buy in a candle or a spray can. Literally the only place you can get this smell is out in the wilderness on the mountain. Was absolutely amazing.
Got to a junction in the trail at Twin Lake one way was continuing to Summit Lake the other way was to Bearhead Mountain we went to the left continuing to Summit Lake. We’ll save Bearhead Mountain for another day. Taking in the view of Twin Lake through the clouds was nice. Just past the lake you cross over another creek, this time your going over logs, be careful a couple were loose, so you may lose your footing. Also this portion of the trail seemed to be a bit muddier than anywhere else on the trail. So be prepared with proper footwear, there is one other spot you cross another stream, this one your going over on rocks and logs, chances are your feet may get wet. Continuing upward it’s pretty much a steady incline, but nothing that takes your breath away. I feel this hike is very good for beginners.
The hike to the lake is only around three miles. So six miles round trip if you don’t stray off on other little trails and detours to see things. We made it to the lake in about an hour. Absolutely beautiful. Least what we could see. Remember the clouds? Super thick. So there is a trail that continues up to the ridge that provides views of Mount Rainier and the lake below. We decided to complete the hike to the top in hopes that just maybe the clouds would break. We made it to the top enjoyed more flowers, clearings long enough to enjoy the cliff side full of flowers, and boy were the clouds moving quick. Was really fun being up there watching them. We sat at top taking in the clouds and each others company while we had lunch.
After lunch we walked a little more around up on the ridge, saw a patch of snow. The girls loved that. They enjoyed a July snowball fight. Other hikers laughed and smiled as they watched the kids play in the snow. Was a fun sight and made for a nice little break.
Also with this particular hike you’re able to camp at the lake basin and up on the ridge. No permits needed. Definitely something to check out if you’re into backpacking. Saw plenty of groups on their way down as we were going up with there tents, and sleeping bags. Saw lots of campsites and some were large, some smaller, but definitely peaceful. I could totally imagine myself there in a hammock. Get this… there was even a composting toilet at the lake. While it was a little walk, it made the lake nice and clean. We used it. Haha. But beware it was out in the open.
There were plenty of other groups spread around the entire lake by this time in the afternoon. Lots of space in between each of the groups giving everyone there space to enjoy the serene calm deep blue waters. And no exaggeration here. The water was super blue. A few of the groups had dogs, they were playing in the water, one man was fishing a couple cuddling in a blanket they were sharing on the bank. Was so picturesque. There were times that the clouds cleared long enough to see across the lake, and other times where they were so thick you couldn’t see the people or the shore on the other side. The kids played in the water a bit, husband slung rocks across the water and I took it all in. Laughing kids, the beautiful scenery and the smell. I absolutely couldn’t get over the amazing fresh smell.
Was around one when we decided to start our hike back to the truck. Didn’t take us too long to get back. As it never takes as long going back as it does going. We stopped along the way to enjoy more of the sights, the flowers, tons of tree fungus to look at. The girls loved touching all the different nature aspects, especially the moss that covered the trees.
Overall… Would I recommend this hike? Absolutely. Was it hard? No. Would I recommend for families or beginners? Absolutely. Dogs allowed? Yes. Oh, and it does take a Northwest Forest Parking pass to park here. You can purchase a day pass for $5 or a yearly pass for $30. You can purchase this anywhere you can buy Discovery Passes, Fishing Licenses, Ranger Stations or Online. Bring a tent and a bathing suit… The only real downfall was the road, going down was a tad hard on the breaks of the truck. And the clouds. They took the view away. But I still enjoyed myself. Usually I’m the type that has to have a view, a sweetener to the end of my hike. I honestly just wanted the exercise and didn’t care where we hiked. We’ll have to go back again when we know we have a clear day to see the view and pitch a tent or throw up a hammock. Have fun and as always be careful when your out there and remember to always let someone know where you’re going to be hiking.