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Hiking Black Peak South Route via Wing Lake | North Cascades

Of the beautiful, loose routes up Black Peak, the 12-mile South Route from Wing Lake is the most popular.

Black Peak is the 18th or 20th tallest mountain in Washington State (depending on who you ask). It reaches 8,970' at its summit and is visible from surrounding mountains like Mt. Goode and Mt. Logan. It's often seen, but less often climbed, from the Wing Lake and Heather Pass trails.

Black Peak South Route

The South Route, also known as the Black Peak Trail from Wing Lake, is a popular hike up the steep and loose slopes of this North Cascades peak. It starts at the Rainy Pass trailhead before heading up gradual switchbacks, past Lake Anne and to Heather Pass. From here you'll get your first look at the 8,970' Black Peak.

Make sure to check out our Complete Guide to Hiking Black Peak.

Black Peak and Wing Lake
Black Peak and Wing Lake

Climbing Black Peak

Black Peak is usually climbed after camping one night at either Lewis or Wing Lake. There are campsites around both with Wing being the closest lake to the mountain. Keep reading for more on camping at Black Peak.

Rainy Pass Trailhead Coordinates: 48.5182, -120.7339


Elevation Gain

​Time Required


12 miles

5,100 ft

10-12 hours


The trailhead is off Highway 20 (which is closed in the winter due to snow conditions). The hike starts from the Rainy Pass trailhead and up the Lake Ann trail, which you can see from the trail to Heather Pass. After only a couple of miles, you'll see the sign directing you either straight on the Heather Pass trail or the right. Turn right uphill to the Heather Pass and Maple Pass Trail and head towards the former.

If you're only interested in hiking to Lewis and Wing Lake, make sure to check out our guide!

Lake Ann from the Trail to Heather Pass
Lake Ann from the Trail to Heather Pass

It's here that you'll get your first view of Black Peak. It rises up in the distance, seemingly impossibly far away. Make sure to notice Corteo Peak to your left as well.

View of Black Peak from the talus field
View of Black Peak from the talus field. The south route is on the left side of the mountain.

From the pass, descend a talus field of smallish rocks, following cairns along the way. There are tons of them scattered around, and it's best to stick as close to them as you can as the quality of the rock off trail decreases substantially. The first lake you'll see is Lewis Lake. There are campsites along its right-hand side, also where the trail wraps around it.

We found that sticking to the lower part of the talus is the easiest section to walk on, and it gets you to where you're going without too much elevation gain and loss.

Continue around the lake, sticking to a now much clearer path. It'll take you up into a larch grove (one of the main reasons the trail is so popular in fall). It's here that you'll meet your first true bit of elevation gain and where the vast majority of the mosquitos are waiting for you in the summer.

Looking back at Wing Lake and Heather Pass from Black Peak
Looking back at Wing Lake and Heather Pass from Black Peak

From the lake, you'll get a short reprieve before wrapping around the right side of Wing Lake. From here, the trail goes up the gulley below the mountain. It's possible to get to the ridge from either the left or right side and avoid the snow that stays late into the year in the center. There are loosely defined trails on either side. The rock in this area is very, very poor, especially as you get closer to the ridge. Make sure to spread out and prevent rock fall as best you can.

The scree route up the left-hand side of Black Peak
The scree route up to the notch on the left-hand side of Black Peak

Once you hit the ridge, you'll be treated to an incredible view of the wet side of the North Cascades. In the distance, you'll see Mt. Goode and Mt. Logan, Glacier Peak on the left side of the skyline, and Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan on the right side. If the day is clear enough, you might even get views into the Southern Pickets and see West McMillan Spire, Inspiration Peak, and the Chopping Block.

Looking up at the scramble to Black Peak summit from the notch
Looking up at the scramble to Black Peak summit from the notch

From here, traverse right along the south side of the mountain, following the cairns. They are more spread apart than they are in the talus field, so make sure to look ahead of you for the best possible way up to the summit. It's not a short scramble and will likely give you a few yikes moments of loose rock. But, overall, it's very easy.

Traverse right around the summit block
Traverse right around the summit block

Eventually, you'll get to the base of the summit block. Do not go straight up it. Look to your right and follow a path around the base of the summit and its opposite side. From here, you'll be at another notch, between the two high points on the mountain. On your left will be the only class 3 section to the summit.

The view from Black Peak towards Mt. Goode
The view from Black Peak towards Mt. Goode

Take care here as a fall would not be great. The climbing is easy as long as you keep three points of contact at all times and avoid the kitty litter if you can. After only 30 feet of climbing, or less, you'll be at the true summit of Black Peak! The 360-degree views are incredible, as they are on most Bulgers.

View from the Summit of Black Peak
View from the Summit of Black Peak

Descend the same way you came up, being careful not to knock loose rocks on those coming up below you. The hardest part of the downclimb is getting back down the scree at the base of the ridge. You may find that a bit of butt-scooting is necessary to avoid some scary sliding.

For this route, and for the others up the mountain, route-finding can be challenging. Using a GPX track, or at least having one downloaded on your phone, will likely make your climb go much faster and smoother.

Even the standard route can be hazardous, and hikers need to be prepared for Class 3 and 4 sections of scrambling. If exposure isn't your thing or if you don't feel comfortable with this type of climbing, Black Peak may not be the enjoyable day out you're hoping for.

Rainy Pass Trailhead Coordinates: 48.5182, -120.7339

South Route Map

View and download this map here.


Where is Black Peak?

Black Peak is in North Cascades National Park in Washington State. The trailhead is off of Highway 20.

How long does it take to climb Black Peak?

It takes between 10 and 12 hours to climb the standard route on Black Peak. Your time may be faster if you have experience climbing Class 3 and 4 rock and moving over boulder/talus fields.

Is Black Peak hard to climb?

Yes, as a hike, Black Peak is much harder than average. It requires you to move over different types of terrain and traverse long distances moving at a slow pace. It also gains more than 5,000 feet in 6 miles.

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