Snowfield Peak is a gorgeous 8,351' summit in North Cascades National Park. It requires a 15.5-mile round trip with nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain.
Snowfield Peak is a remote, hard-to-get-to peak that calls for class 3 scrambling, glacier travel, and route-finding experience. You should be prepared for a steep approach trail, steep snow, possibly wet slab travel, and a long day (or multi-day trip).
Most people choose to climb Snowfield Peak in two days. Hiking into Colonial Basin or at the col at 5,8000', camping, and then pushing on to Snowfield Peak the next day. Multi-summit trips are also popular in this area. If you get a backcountry camping permit, you can camp and hit multiple mountains in this area, including:
Paul Bunyans Stump
The last two above are closer to Snowfield Peak and are sometimes done right after Snowfield and before returning to camp. Paul Bunyans Stump, Colonial Peak, Pyramid Peak, and Pinnacle Peak are much closer to Colonial Basin and call for less snow travel.
Directions to Snowfield Peak
Coming from the south on I-5, head north past Mount Vernon, then go east on SR-20 (North Cascades Highway) towards Marblemount. From here, drive seven miles past Newhalem to the Pyramid Lake Trailhead, sitting right above Diablo Lake.
Use this map to navigate to the Pyramid Lake Trailhead:
Did you know? Snowfield Peak is one of the 100 tallest mountains in Washington.
Also on the list and much closer to Twisp and Wenatchee, is Washington's Hoodoo Peak.
Best Time to Climb Snowfield Peak
Snowfield Peak is an early-season climb. The Neve Glacier is notoriously crevassed, meaning that usually, by mid-July, the crossing is far too dangerous for those lacking serious crevasse rescue training.
Snowfield Peak Weather
Summer conditions around the beginning of the trailhead to Pyramid Lake can see highs of mid to low 80s, with the lowest temps staying around 60-65 degrees.
As you ascend into the alpine and the Colonial Basin, highs will be around 60-65 degrees, and lows will average around 48-50 degrees. The wind chill on the glaciers can make it seem 5-10 degrees colder at times.
Be prepared for heat on the approach and then much cooler temps as you cross the broad Neve Galcier towards Snowfield. This is even more true above Colonial Basin if you choose to camp at the col.
Facts About Snowfield Peak
The hike starts at the Pyramid Lake Trailhead.
Snowfield Peak has an elevation of 8,351.'
Snowfield Peak is just barely a Bulger, ranking at #91.
The peak requires crossing two glaciers, the Colonial and Neve.
Hiking Snowfield Peak
Getting to Snowfield Peak is no easy task. Starting from the Pyramid Lake Trailhead on Highway 20, just across the river from Diablo, the trail ascends 8,740 feet of elevation over 15.5 miles. Around 1,000 feet of that elevation is on the way back.
The climb and hike to Snowfield Peak is steep, strenuous, and usually done in multiple days. You should be prepared for class 3 scrambling, although most of it is class 2 at most.
The first 2 miles up to Pyramid Lake is the easiest/moderate part of the hike, with a decently maintained trail and easier terrain. The trail gains around 1,400 feet in the first 1.9 miles. You'll know the easy part is over when you see the less-than-impressive lake. The trail continues to the right. It's harder to see here so take your time and make sure that you've found the right path. It is bordering the west side of the lake.
After the lake, you'll get to the first steep section of the trail with close to 3,000 ft of gain in 2 miles. The trail winds through the trees, scramble up and around rock faces, and eventually levels out, providing your first views of Pyramid Peak and Pinnacle Peak. Snowfield is far behind these.
More hiking in the woods follows with a few more impressive views of the mountains ahead. You'll eventually reach a final plateau before dropping down around 300 feet in elevation to what in the early season is the first snowfield and somewhat of a bowling alley. Move quickly and carefully through this area, as rock fall is very common.
You can choose to camp at Colonial Lake, which in the early season will still be frozen, or continue on to the col to the peak if you're aiming for a day trip.
The lake can be crossed when it's still completely frozen but be careful as the edges thaw faster than the middle. There is also a path to the left of the lake, up the slabs, and then below the facing cliffs. It takes longer, but if the lake isn't frozen, it may be your only choice.
From the far side of the lake, head up the steep slope of the COlonial Glacier to the col. It's here that you'll get your first look at Snowfield Peak. It's not quite as far as it looks here.
Descend the col, about 500 feet, and cross the Neve Glacier, following the path of least resistance but generally trending left. This area can be rife with crevasses and should not be crossed late in the season.
Cross the remaining snowfield to the right side of Snowfield Peak. Your scramble goes up the ridgeline and then around the left side of a double dihedral up above you. When you reach a chimney-like gully feature, scramble up and around the left side. There should be cairns here to mark your way. This part is the most difficult of the scramble and does require walking on a slabbier section of rock.
Continue up and around to the right of the summit block (there may be some tat here) and then slightly left to the true summit itself.
Reverse course, being careful on the descent as much of the rock is very loose. Rather than going back the way you came, you can go straight up the gulley and through its very obvious notch.