Driven away from the Mount Baker/North Cascades area due to too much snow, and unable to visit other places on our Washington itinerary due to unfavorable weather reports, I needed to find someplace nice to spend a day. I’d read about a trail in central Washington (which was supposed to have good weather) called “Summer Blossom” and decided to give it a try. After all, such a trail would have awesome wildflowers, right? Well, these thoughts led us on an escapade we never planned on, although it was beautiful, and I’d highly recommend it to others who were in the area. We did see some gorgeous wildflowers and outstanding views, even though it took us much longer than expected to find the trail, and once we found it, we missed the end and hiked another 3-4 miles before we realized it. In fact, the first day we missed the trail altogether, and ended up hiking around 7 miles before we realized our mistake. So, that’s what this and next week’s posts are supposed to do: keep you from making the same mistakes I did. I’ll cover the first day’s escapade in this post, and then actually talk about the Summer Blossom Trail in the next post.
Before I tell you how to get there, I should probably explain why we got so confused about the trails. They are not very well marked to start with, but that’s no excuse for why we did what we did. We had been driving for far longer than we thought we should have, so when we came upon a camping area, we thought we must be there (finally!) We got out and headed down the Summit Trail, figuring that was where we wanted to be. This is what I’ll talk about in this post. However, the Summer Blossom Trail is 2 miles further down the road. The Summit Trail does eventually connect to the Summer Blossom Trail, but it is probably a good 13+ miles between this parking area and the Summer Blossom Trailhead. (All the trail mileages on the map I believe are a bit on the conservative side—I’d have called it about 17 miles to do the loop). This gives you the opportunity to do this as a loop, but we discovered this the next day, after we did the Summer Blossom Trail (more on that in the next post). If you decide to do the loop, starting at the Summit Trailhead will make you go downhill at the beginning and end of the two trails, but you will be hiking 2 miles up the road back to your vehicle. Starting at the Summer Blossom Trailhead, you will be hiking steeply uphill and the beginning and end of the trails, but the views will be much better on the Summer Blossom Trail in the morning than in the afternoon. So, the second way would be my recommendation.
To get to the Summit Trailhead, from the town of Chelan, go west on Manson Hwy 150 for 6 miles. Then turn right onto Wapato Lake Road and continue 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Upper Joe Creek Road, which will turn into Grade Creek Road (#8200) and become dirt/gravel at 2.6 miles. For several miles you will be following the lake (although not very closely) driving along the edge of the hillside, following it in and out, in and out, as around the hills. The road is somewhat flat, slightly uphill and downhill in this section. Eventually, you will turn away from the lake altogether, and the road will begin to climb. Finally, after 29 miles of dirt road, at the top of the “pass”, you will come to a campground-type area (South Navarre Campground). Here there is a horse corral, primitive toilets, and some picnic tables and fire rings. Park your vehicle over on the left side of the road in the dirt parking area. The trail starts over at the lower end of the parking lot. Oh, a word about the primitive toilets: the ones across the road beyond the horse corral are in much (much!) better shape than the one up the trail among the lupines on the parking area side of the road. All are usable; but I’d still recommend the ones beyond the horse corral.
The trail begins by traveling slightly downhill through a pine forest. Not long after starting, it enters an area that was burned over. This has allowed the wildflowers to grow, and they are lovely. We were there in mid-August, but the summer was late and cool that year, so the wildflowers were also a bit late. I didn’t know the names of most of the wildflowers, but I know that there were lupines, asters, mountain sunflowers, and, farther down, beautiful red and yellow shooting stars. Gorgeous! After a mile or so, the trail suddenly begins to descend quite steeply. It switchbacks its way down and down, until you wonder where exactly it’s going. Since we thought we were hiking to a nice view, we doubly wondered where the trail was taking us!
After another mile and a half of hiking, you will come to a crossroads. (These mileages on the map are probably about right.) Safety Harbor goes left, the Summit Trail goes back the way you came, and who knows what goes right. Turn right. This will actually keep you on the Summit Trail. From here, the trail rolls a bit through a pine forest. There is one creek crossing that was a little tricky, but there were logs and whatnot across the stream, so it wasn’t too hard. If the water was high, this would be impassable. Eventually, you will begin to switchback upward, with pretty wildflowers all around you. They are lovely; there’s no other way to describe them.
After maybe 5 miles of hiking, you will come to another crossroads. (The map says it’s only another mile, but don’t believe it—it’s much longer than just a mile! It may not quite be another 3 miles, but it’s certainly longer than a mile.) Uno Peak goes left, a campsite (Miners Basin Campground) is to the right (complete with a picnic table and fire ring!), and Boiling Lake goes straight. Not sure what else to do, we went straight for another 2 miles or so (probably a little less than that). The trail from here just continues to climb and climb, mostly switchbacking its way up through alpine meadows. The flowers here were also very nice, although I didn’t stop to examine them. At last, about 7 miles from the trailhead (only 5.4 according to the map), you will get to the top of the ridge. Here is the first real view you’ve had all day. Up until this point, you’ve been in the trees and/or below the treeline, so although you might see some of the mountain peaks above you, that’s about it. However, from up here, you can see the mountains around you clearly as well as across the valley to some more mountains.
At this point, we decided we’d been out far longer than we wanted to, and we figured out from the GPS that it would be much faster to go back the way we came instead of keeping going and hoping that the elusive Summer Blossom Trail would appear out of nowhere. (Sorry…no GPS points. I forgot to save it to the GPS memory…). So, we turned around and went back, making for a 12-14 mile RT hike. (That mileage is approximate; the map says it’s only a 10.8 mile RT trail, but I beg to differ.)
This part of the Summit Trail is nice because of its wildflowers. If the wildflowers hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t recommend this trail at all. However, if you want to have a nice hike through a forest, or are looking for solitude, this might be the trail for you. We were there in the middle of the week, but we saw no one the entire hike. The road itself is mostly deserted, except for the people camping and fishing along the way. We had a blowout tire as we were driving in, stopped in the middle of the road, changed the tire, and didn’t block traffic for a moment because there simply wasn’t any to block!
Round Trip Trail Length: We did 12-14 miles; go as far as you wish or do an 13-17 mile loop.
Facilities: Very primitive restrooms, picnic tables, fire rings, and corral at the parking area.
Fees: $5 per day Northwest Forest Service Pass required. Interagency, Senior, Access, and Northwest Forest Service Passes accepted.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Saturday Sat Feb 17 60%
Chance of Snow
Snow showers developing late. Lows overnight in the low 20s.
Sunday Sun Feb 18 70%
Snow during the morning will yield to a mostly cloudy sky during the afternoon. High 29F. Winds NNE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.
Monday Mon Feb 19 0%
A mainly sunny sky. High 29F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
Tuesday Tue Feb 20 0%
Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High 27F. Winds light and variable.
Wednesday Wed Feb 21 10%
A mix of clouds and sun early, then becoming cloudy later in the day. High near 30F. Winds light and variable.