After a month of dealing with torn apart bathrooms I finally got to get out into the wilderness again! Taking my son James for our end-of-the-summer overnight camping trip, I picked Summit lake in the shadow of Mt Rainer. The past two hikes had been into the Alpine lakes area and I thought it would be fun to get James close to Mt Rainer.
We couldn't have picked a better day to go. The day came clear and sunny, temps in the upper 70s to low eighties. We made good time down to the trailhead and were ready to hike by 9:30 AM. A word of warning to small vehicle owners - the forest service road is pretty rough, six miles of washboard travel and a couple big ruts designed to take out an oil pan. Not to mention one spot where the road looks ready to fall off the side of the hill. I was glad to have my truck!
The hike itself is pretty easy, although I was glad I hadn't picked a more strenous hike since it had been over a month since our last hike. Under three miles gets you to the lake and around 1,000 ft of elevation gain. It took us about 1.5 hrs of easy-going pace. The hike has a few switch-backs and a couple long steady climbs. Not too many rocks. The flowers are blooming and the blueberries are just starting to show.
The lake is gorgeous, crystal clear blue, with three-quarters of the shoreline available for walking/fishing. Most spots the lake is shallow and drops off gradually. The far shore is steep and cliff-faced and not accessable by walking. This would be a good lake to hike in a float tube for day fishing. The campsites are in good shape and offer views of Mt Rainer, depending on which spots you pick. And NOT to be missed is the add on hike to the far cliffs over-looking the lake. An easy quarter mile and 300 ft elevation gain gives you a birds-eye view of the lake and Mt Rainer. We felt like we were on top of the earth! James really enjoyed the view from the top. If you go this lake DO NOT skip this part of the hike!
OK, fishing. In a word - wow! I noted immediately that there were fish rising everywhere, and pretty quickly determined that they were quite picky. The wooleybuggers gave zero interest, and the Fish Creek Spinners, while catching a few fish, were not the ticket. But dry flies - man, these fish jumped all over them! It didn't even matter that I only had one with me and that it was eventually torn to shreads. If the fly floated, the fish would aggresively attack it. If the fly sunk under the water even an inch, theer was no interest. Heck, I had as many hits on my clear casting bobber as I did the fly! I must have caught a couple dozen brook trout in the afternoon (when I least expected to catch fish). They were everywhere along the shoreline and cruising lazily by me. The only downside was this lake seemingly is overrun with tiny fish. Everything I caught was in the 5-8" range, and a lot of skinny fish. Nothing of any great size could I find. The other thing that was of great interest to me was that later, after dinner, I went out and fished and had zero luck. The fish were pretty much done rising and nothing seemed to interest them, including spinners. And it was the same way in the morning. No hatch on the water and no fish biting. So lesson learned - I will add MORE dry flies to my tackle box for Alpine lake fishing, and I will be less worried about time of day fishing.
James and I hiked out the next morning under cloudy skies as a new front came in, beating the rain by a half hour - good timing. We had a great final overnight before school starts. James says this was his favorite of our three hikes this year. I would recommend Summit lake as an easy hike and destination. It's actually outside Mt Rainer park, so you only need your forest service parking permit. Also, expect to share the lake. We had it all to ourselves until 3pm when a group of six teens arrived for what must have been their end of the summer trip. They were kinda loud but thankfully quieted down in the evening. Come up early in the day to get the best camping sites, in my opinion the far side of the lake which has the Mt Rainer view. And be prepared to catch a LOT of little trout!
Final hiking stats: Hiked on Wednesday/Thursday Aug 25-26, 2010, distance hiked: 8.17 miles, elevation gain 1355 feet (includes distance to overview), maximum elevation 5,733 ft.
From Enumclaw drive west on State Route 410 (Chinook Pass Highway) to SR 165. Proceed on SR 165 to the Carbon River Road/Mowich Lake Highway junction. Turn left onto Carbon River Road and follow it to Cayada Creek Road (Forest Road 7810), just before the national park entrance. Turn left (north) and drive about 6.8 miles to the trailhead at the end of FS road 7810.
Our campsite view:
Views from ridge overlooking the lake:
A typical brook trout: