Gilbert Peak and Warm Lake Loop

HARD 9 reviews
#4 of 5 trails in

Gilbert Peak and Warm Lake Loop is a 24.2 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near White Pass, Washington that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October.

24.2 miles
4,849 feet




rock climbing

trail running



wild flowers



old growth



off trail

no dogs

The trail head begins on private land, at 3900ft elevation, and heads up the road appx. .2 miles to the gate, where you will turn left, and cross Short creek, then Long Creek. Once across these two streams, you will come to a Y near some corrals, and signage for trail #1120, South Fork Tieton trail, turn right. This crosses Conrad Meadows, the largest mid-montane meadow in the Cascades, and it is used by the land owner for grazing cattle, of which you will certainly see. Follow the trail across the wide open expanse and then into a pine forest to a private logging road at 1.76 miles. Follow the sign, across the road, to the trail register board, and self-register. The trail continues over easy and mostly flat terrain, along the South Fork Tieton River, as it winds downhill through pretty meadows and pines. At the 4.4 mile mark, you will come to a junction, which begins the loop. Stay left, to Surprise Lake. The trail continues up lazy switch backs on a wide dirt trail that’s easy to follow, which can become dusty during the dry season. It’s not unusual to see people on horseback along the way. It’s still an easy grade through a fir, cedar and hemlock forest that continually grow larger as you approach the lake, reached at 6.7 miles. A small, alpine lake at 5200ft, hemmed in by steep banks and firs, with an occasional campsite along the northern shore, when you first reach the lake. There are also some good sites at the extreme end of the lake, with nice flat ground for tenting. If you spend the night here, fishing is also possible. Past the lake, for the next mile, the trees begin to thin, and then you will see the rocky cliffs of the Klickton Divide, a ridgeline that becomes the Goat Rocks. Follow the trail along the contours of the ridge, amidst green hillside meadows filled with wildflowers to a hidden trail junction, which will lead you to the bench above, at 8.1 miles. It’s hidden, because spring run-out coming down the trail has washed it out at this point, making it look like an old dry creek bed. Small cedar trees have grown up around the trail, further obscuring it. But, if you walk up this, into the tree line, you will see the remnants of the trail. You will know if you passed this obscured trail, if you come to the most prominent fork of the Tieton River, a steady stream cascading down from the cliffs above, intersecting the trail. Stop, and walk back for 3 minutes, and look uphill carefully to find the trail. It’s seldom used, so even after you find it, you’ll have to continue to look diligently in places, as it fades beneath the larger trees. At 8.48 miles, you will see another Y, stay left, and continue uphill, the trail is cut into the side of the ridge, and filled with rock to prevent washout. Reaching the top of the ridge, at 8.8 miles, and 5970ft elevation, you will come to a flat grassy area, with the path splitting, like an inverted Y. At this fork in the trail, look to your immediate left, uphill, for a faint trail that leads uphill along the ridge. It too, as you follow it, will fade in and out, now mostly a game trail, the rest of the way to the lake. From this ridge, as you continue to trek towards the lake, the views are spectacular, as you cross large meadows at the base of the Goat Rocks, the sounds of roaring water from the waterfall running out of the lakes and glaciers above fill the valley. Prominent Gilbert Peak rises above the rest like a rusty horn. Truly a beautiful valley. Warm Lake sets on an elevated bench at the base of the ridgeline, looking down into the valley you just traveled up, at 6300ft, and 9.9 miles in. A small tarn, its ringed in meadows, and small copses of wind ravaged trees, stunted by short growing seasons and the wind that seems to buffet the area. At the southern edge, are a few good camping spots, on barren rock and dirt. The area is full of opportunities to explore, from Gilbert Peak, to Cold Lake, which sets at the base of the Conrad Glacier. The return trip can be taken the same way out as you walked in, or at the junction to trail #1120, turn left, and follow the loop back to the loop junction you passed on the way in. This way stays mostly in the trees, but the trail is also in good condition, and slightly shorter than the way in.

23 days ago

Just got back from this area today. Washout is still present but the road is open up to that point and it's not a problem to hike around. There were lots of cars parked along the road at the barricade. Adds about 1 mile each direction compared to starting at Conrad Meadows Trailhead. Tried to make it up to Warm Lake but didn't have this map. Will have to try again next time. I suspect that reaching this area would have made my trip 5/5. Surprise Lake is very clear and blue but it didn't due too much for me. Because of the dense forest and the steep banks, it's not very accessible on the Eastern side. If I camp there again, I would stay on the Western side.

2 months ago

Bummer the road washed out. Will be a while before anyone can go across. May 16.18

11 months ago

Road was blocked due to a wash out. This would add 6.7 miles back and forth to the hike. We didn't do that. Aug 5th 3017

4 days ago

Friday, September 14, 2012