Summit Lake is a jewel nestled in the Clearwater Wilderness area that reflects Mount Rainier on its surface like a mirror.
It’s surrounded by green meadows filled with wildflowers in the summer, and ripe berries in fall. It’s a haven for birds, wildlife, and photographers.
On the trail you won’t waste any time getting your blood pumping. It is a steady climb starting with the parking lot, but eventually levels out. The hike is about 6 miles round-trip.
Soon you’ll enter a series of switchbacks leading through stands of hemlock and fir and to the Clearwater Wilderness. At around the one-mile mark, you will come to a junction with the Carbon River Trail. Stay to the left, and the main trail will enter old-growth forest and climb steeply up to the lake. Later the trail opens to a series of meadows as you approach the lake. Continue to the left to loop around the lake and find sunny rocks perfect for enjoying lunch, and a couple of hidden swimming holes.
The trail continues up a rocky ridge that provides a stunning 360-degree panorama. There are several campsites around the lake for those who want to stay for the weekend. For more hiking opportunities, head back down to the trail junction and take trail 1177 up to Bearhead Mountain, the site of a former fire lookout for stunning views, in addition to a good workout.