Attempted a car 2 car single day trip. Per other trip reports, I advise taking the I5, I84 route vs. FS 23 from Seattle. We had a very late start and picked up our Volcano passes at the Trout Lake ranger station and arrived at a very full trailhead lot at 3 am. The road is in very bumpy and, narrows to one lane with few pullouts for the final 3 miles. Very nice trailhead lot with lots of parking, spots for camping, tents and RV,s and a couple of good pit toilets.
We hit the trail at 6:45 AM – if you are doing a single day push I would advise an earlier start as we encountered significant slushy snow on Pikers Peak. The face was massively sun cupped and stepping on these caused them to most often collapse, making the going up very difficult.
The trail follows an old road, winding through the burnt-out forest. It makes for an eerie, yet very beautiful scene, especially when we descended at sunset. Many wildflowers are in bloom. Upon crossing Morrison creek, the trail winds through lava formations and twisted knarled Mountain Hemlocks. Here the trail is marked with mounds of lava rocks supporting tall wood poles up to Crescent glacier making the path up the ridge easy to follow. Many campsites line the trail, each surrounded with lava rocks for wind and privacy breaks. We encountered a lone mountain goat.
The snow started at 8100 feet persistently. One could follow adjacent rock fields, but those appeared more challenging to traverse. We passed the Lunch Counter and passed many people already making their descent. Some folks climbed at night to see the sunrise. Upon arriving at the snowfield leading to Pikers Peak, we saw two well-established glissade chutes. These looked like bobsled runs. As we made our way up the steep snow, I was envious of all the climbers who had earlier starts, as the snow was soft and slushy, making upward progress really difficult. The snow is massively sun cupped – up to 2 feet deep wells, but they were mostly soft and did not assist in the ascent. Kick stepping was a challenge, and an ice axe and crampons were a must for this time of day.
As we ascended many people were cruising down the glissade chutes. You can descent then entire slops using one of them. We finally made the ridge of Pikers Peak exhausted, at nearly 5 PM, our turn around time. I didn’t want to descent in the dark, and making the final push to the summit would have ensured a long day in the dark. Some of my peers here on WTA have made much faster times up! Impressive as I was spent when I finally hit the 11522 ft mark. We opted to take a few pictures from the plateau. The weather could not have been more perfect. Low winds, no clouds, and a beautiful sunset. We took the chutes down and make it to the area above Lunch Counter in about 7 mins, clocking in a max 56 mph!
We made good time down the mountain, fortunately as its a lot of ground to cover, esp in a car2car push. The trail through the burned-out area was exceptionally beautiful at sunset. We took a lot of photos as I have not spent much time in areas affected by fire much. It’s amazing to see the foliage that grows in this type of terrain.
I may opt to do this trip again in a 2-day format, taking time to enjoy more of the mountain and the area as its rather beautiful. A full set of photographs geotagged to the trail and location is available in my AllTrails link. Also, check out the video flythrough in the Vimeo link.
Water is in short supply above Morrison creek. Melting snow and some runoff melt are your options. Plan accordingly.