Photo by Marc Dilley taken near (but not on) Carne Mountain
Attractions. A continual climb (good for the heart) to one of the prettier viewpoints in the Chiwawa River area (good for the eyes). While the scenery is hidden by forest for part of the climb, you’ll emerge into alpine meadows and reach viewpoints with panoramic views out over hundreds of peaks. Beautiful! And it’s especially beautiful when the wildflowers are blooming (July) and when the larches are turning (late September/early October).
Distance: 4 miles one way. Elevation Gain: 3,550 feet.
Skill: 2 (intermediate). Fitness: 2+ (strong intermediate).
Access. Follow Highway 2 to Coles Corner, then drive 4.4 miles on Highway 207 in a northeasterly direction past Lake Wenatchee State Park to a bridge crossing the Wenatchee River. Shortly past the bridge, leave Highway 207 by staying right at a fork and then veer right again at the next fork onto the Chiwawa Loop Road. About 5.75 miles from Coles Corner, the Chiwawa Valley Road branches off to the left (maps also refer to this as the Meadows Creek Road). Turn left and follow the road about 2.7 miles to a bridge across the Chiwawa River. Cross the river and, about 0.3 miles later, curve left (remain on the paved road). The paved road becomes State Highway 3, which is also called the Chiwawa River Road… aiyee Chiwawa there are a lot of Chiwawas around here! Keep following this in a northwesterly direction and (about 8 miles from the bridge across the Chiwawa River) the road turns to gravel. Go another 10.75 miles and, at a prominent fork, veer right onto the Phelps Creek Road. Drive uphill more steeply for 2.25 miles until the road ends at the trailhead (elevation 3,540 feet). A Northwest Forest Pass will be needed. On nice summer weekends the parking lot is likely to be packed but worry not about crowds, the vast majority of hikers head up Phelps Creek to Spider Meadows.
- Leaving from the trailhead, walk about ¼ mile up Phelps Creek toward Spider Meadows. Take a right on Carne Mountain Trail. Now the climbing starts in earnest.
- After another 2 miles of steady climbing, the trail comes out of the forests onto more open slopes. In another mile (at about 6,100 feet), the trail temporarily flattens out in a very pleasant little cirque with pretty flowers (summer) and larches (yellow in autumn). This is a good place for a break before climbing upward on the trail to a junction with the fainter Old Gib Trail (elevation 6,450’).
- Veer left and climb up through pleasant larch groves to a 6,750-foot saddle. There’s an unsigned junction with the Rock Creek Trail — that trail will make a descending contour in a north to northeasterly direction).
- Go left at the saddle and follow the south ridge of Carne Mountain uphill for about 0.3 miles to the summit. Wildflowers can be prolific along this final stroll to the top.
- At the top use a general-scale map to identify all the peaks Old Gib, Buck, Maude, Fortress, Chiwawa, Red, Dumbell, Seven-Fingered Jack, and dozens more. Several of the peaks in close proximity are over 9,000 feet tall.
Map. See map below for more information. Note: the bearings on this map are for winter travelers (skiers and snowshoers). Print on 8.5” x 14” paper in portrait mode.
Permits. A Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park at the trailhead.
Photo. Larch needles by Chester Marler. Taken on Carne Mountain.
Nearby Outings. For example, see our listings for the Carne Mountain High Route, Maude, Seven- Finger Jack, and Spider Meadow-East Chiwawa Peak.
More Info. See the WTA’s description of the hike, which is good. Scroll to the bottom of this link and read the recent trip reports. Often you can get an idea of what shape the trail is in, or find out what flowers are being seen, or read if the larches are beginning to change color… Craig Romano’s book, Day Hiking: Central Washington has a good write-up on this hike.
Date. This guidebook info was originally posted September 30, 2009 and was slightly updated on 6/21/2010.
Snow Update 6/30/2010. Skiers headed up to Spider Meadows on 6/26/2010 encountered adequate snow skiing along Phelps Creek after crossing Leroy Creek… which means hikers wanting to do this hike are likely to encounter intermittent snow after a mile or two and then full snow coverage well below the summit. Snowshoes may still be a reasonable addition to the pack until mid July.
Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route.You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.
Photo: A lush water scene at the start of the Carne Mountain Hike.