Trip Report    

Day Hike - Bearhead Mountain

A beautiful fall day to complete year end hiking goals with a surprise at the top.

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • The trail to Bearhead is in great shape.  There are no trees blocking access.  There were maybe 2 places on the trail that required a slight jump back upto the trail where it had slid down the side of the mountain but nothing very difficult. 

For this trip we decided on a slightly early start for fall.  The goal was to be at the trailhead just after sunrise so we could navigate Forest Road 7810 with enough light to see any obstacles.  The drive out to the forest road was uneventful.  There is still a stoplight only allowing one way traffic across the Fairfax bridge, plan accordingly since it is on a timer.  There is also another section of Fairfax forest reserve road that is down to one way traffic in each direction just after the bridge. 

Once we arrived at road 7810 we headed up it.  The road starts out like any dirt road but proceeds to deteriorate as you drive up the mountain.  There are sections of the road that if not taken carefully can and will cause damage to your vehicle.  Just take it slow and choose a good line and you will make it.  I listed this as only recommended for high clearance vehicles but cars were making it up the road.  Keep in mind we did see Two skid plates/bottom engine covers in particularly rocky areas of the road so not everyone made without damage. 

Upon our arrival to the parking area we were surprised to find it nearly full.  We assumed it was mainly campers that arrived Friday since the forecast for this weekend is great.  After getting our boots on and going over the days plan(get the final Rainier 100 list hiking peak for a participant)  we headed up the trail. 

We found the trail in great condition with the only spoiler at this time being the unseasonably warm weather for this time of year.  The forest was warm and humid this morning.  This caused most of the participants to start out like this was a middle of July or August hike.  Unlike a July or August hike the bugs were non existent which was very nice.  

Entering Clearwater Wilderness.


With a close goal of just Bearhead mountain for the day we took a nice casual pace up.  Even at this pace we quickly reached our first checkpoint of the morning Twin Lake.  The lake was nice and calm and the sun was just rising over the ridge blinding us as it reflected off the lake.   

Twin lake, blinding us with the rising sun.


After a few quick photos of Twin lake we departed heading up the Carbon trail to Bearhead.  The Carbon trail is not as well traveled as the Summit lake trail but is still in great condition.  We followed it up till it intersected with the Bearhead trail.  At this point since we would be leaving the protection of the forest and heading into full sunlight we sun screened up.

It didn't take long for us to move into full sun as we ascended the side of Bearhead.  On the way up we finally got to see the fall colors we had been looking forward to as well as a Pika screaming at us from the rocks below.

Pika doing its thing:


Fall colors starting to show, Rainier in smokey distance.


After what seemed like a quick hike along the switchbacks we arrived at the top of Bearhead.  It was now time for celebration.  This was the final hiking peak of the 15 hiking peaks on the Rainier 100 list for one of the participants.  Since I knew this in advance I had prepared a sign for them to hold up for photo ops thinking that would be a neat thing.  My assistant leader also knew this and not to be outdone had secretly transported an entire cake in their pack to the top along with plates and utensils!  What a surprise this was for everyone.  

Yay, Rainier hiking peaks completed.  3 years of hard work.




After our unexpected desert and photos we decided to head over and check out the eastern side of Bearhead to get a view of Bearheads East peak.  To do this we followed a very clear unmaintained trail over to it.  Once there you get a great view of some interesting terrain as well as the summit of Bearhead East peak. 

Bearhead East peak from Bearhead.


After all our fun at the top we decided to head back down.  We returned via our entry trail.  On the way down the Bearhead trail we only ran into 4 people.  Once we hit the Summit lake trail things got much busier.  There were large groups of people heading up causing us to yield to them.  There were a few times we got lots of rest waiting for group after group to pass us.  This left us wondering about the current parking situation.  Upon our arrival we found the parking area completely overflowing with cars parked nearly blocking others in.  Worse were vehicles parked down the road on both sides of a one lane road.  As we drove out of the parking lot there was one section we were not sure we were even going to fit through without folding our mirrors in.  Luckily we did make it out but we were worried for a bit.  

Total hike time was right around 5 hours.

Distance was 7.5 miles.

Elevation gain around 1,800 feet.  

All in all a really great fall hike with a great group of people.