Scramble to the Summit of Dragontail Peak

Rate this Adventure 16 miles 7000 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Nathan Wall

Panoramic vistas of the Core Enchantments and Central Cascades. Ascend to the summit of the second tallest peak in the Stuart Range. Entry-level glacier travel. Amazing scenery. Roughly 16 miles roundtrip with nearly 7000 feet of cumulative elevation gain.

Getting There

From Leavenworth, WA, drive Icicle Creek Road for 8.5 miles until you reach Bridge Creek Campground. Turn left here onto Forest Service Road #7601 signed for the Stuart Lake Trailhead. The pavements ends and the road gains elevation quickly as your car transports you high above the Icicle Creek Valley. After four miles, you'll reach the Stuart Lake Trailhead at the road's terminus at an elevation of 3400 feet.

Be advised that advanced hikers can complete this route as a day-hike but intermediate hikers may want to consider backpacking to Colchuck Lake and climbing Dragontail the next morning. An overnight permit is required if spending the night. Be warned that the permits are often in exceedingly high demand from June 15th through October 15th of every year.

The Trail

Grab your pack and begin by hiking into the Enchantments and rest assured you're about to be enveloped by one of the most exhilarating "walk-ups" in the Centrals Cascades!

The way begins placidly enough, paralleling Mountaineer Creek through dense, healthy forests. The constant murmur (or roar, depending upon the season) of the creek will be a a fellow companion for the next few miles. At roughly 1.5 miles, cross the creek and ascend switchbacks at a moderate grade. The trail begins offering up a few scant views of the spectacles ahead and behind as it reaches a junction at 2.5 miles with the Colchuck Lake Trail (elevation: 4500 feet).

Turn left and promptly cross Mountaineer Creek on a well-maintained footbridge. Leaving the creek behind now and switch back upwards through thinning forest, among rolling granite knolls, and increasing vistas to the north. After 1.6 miles, emerge at the shimmering shores of Colchuck Lake (elevation 5570 feet) gazing at the deep emerald green waters. Draw your gaze upwards and gather the first unobstructed views of Dragontail Peak dominating the Southern Skyline with Colchuck Peak to your right, while the granite crags and summit block are still leering 3000 vertical feet overhead!

Locate the main trail and head to your right, making your way counterclockwise around Colchuck Lake. After roughly 1.1 miles of traversing, the maintained trails ends. Never fret, however, as the route is easy to follow through talus and marked by a plethora of large cairns. Boulder hop, duck, dodge, and weave through rock falls of all sizes. Begin climbing steeply now through talus and scree (or snow in early season) with ever-expanding views of Colchuck Lake below and Cashmere Peak on the horizon. The trees thin and become few and far between and what vegetation remains struggles to survive in the harsh environment. After 2200 vertical feet of elevation gain in just under one mile, you'll reach fabled Aasgard Pass at 7800 feet. The austere and other-worldy landscape of the Upper Enchantments now unfolds before you.

Catch your breath and make your way towards the small tarns immediately west of Isolation Lake while taking in the views of Little Annapurna, Enchantment, and McClellan Peaks. Take a moment to gather yourself at the foot of the Snow Glacier while putting on your crampons, helmet, and getting ready for the next mildly technical part of the climb.

Continue west yet again and zigzag your way up the Snow Glacier avoiding numerous cliffs while aiming for the obvious saddle between Dragontail Peak and the unnamed crags to the South. Be advised that the glacier can be quite icy in late season. Obtain the saddle at roughly 8500 vertical feet about one scant mile past Aasgard Pass.

Now scramble (Class 2) a readily visible climber's path heading north along a gentle ridge towards a small rock outcropping, the unassuming true summit of Dragontail Peak. At 8840 plus vertical feet, take in the panoramic views of Central Washington, but be sure to mind the steep North Face as a fall would be fatal. Numerous peaks, near and far, dominant your view in every direction.

Descend the same route; if glissading, use extra caution below Aasgard Pass. Numerous accidents have occurred.

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Tags

Rock Climbing
Fishing
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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