Peak Trail is a steep hike to open meadows, grand vistas and a
historic fire lookout. Know your limits, the trail gains 4400 feet in 6.8
miles (1340 m in 10.9 km). Carry plenty of water: the only water source
after the trail leaves Ross Lake is snow, which is usually gone by early
Views and Sun
Access is at mile 16 on the Eastbank Trail, or from Ross Lake by boat.
The East Bank Trailhead is located near milepost 138 on State Route 20.
Boat transportation from Ross Lake Resort (206-386-4437) may be arranged
to the Desolation Trailhead. Hikers also can access the trail and lake
from Hozomeen campground on the US-Canadian Border.
The trail begins gently, with lakeside views. After two miles (3.2
km), the trail turns east and begins to climb. Enjoy the cool forest and
the last water. The forest tapers off to exposed subalpine vegetation.
Watch for views of Hozomeen Mountain to the north, the Picket Range and
Ross Lake to the west, Jack Mountain to the south, and Skagit Peak to the
Diversity of Life
Renewed by Fire
Desolation Peak Trail takes the hiker from low elevation forests to
subalpine meadows. It also allows discovery of plant species from the
dryer east-side which grow on this west slope . Ponderosa and lodgepole
pine can be found. Watch for wildlife: deer, bear, cougar, grouse, and
Along the trail, one can find remains of charred wood. A major burn
occurred in 1926. Periodic fire created the meadows. Opportunistic plants
and animals thrive in the open space that results from fire. This mountain
is a place of striking variety.
Lookouts are places vacillating between an experience far from the
world and the thunderous reality of a mountain storm. Desolation is noted
for extreme changes in weather. The people who worked in lookout stations
either possessed a fitting solitary character, soon gained it, or made
excuses to leave. Beatnik poet Jack Kerouac served as the lookout here in
1956. He wrote the classic book Desolation Angels from that
experience. Kerouac described the looming twin peaks of Hozomeen Mountain
as "the void."
Note: Desolation Lookout is closed to the public.
Designated campsites are located on the ridge one mile (1.6 km) below
the lookout. The only water source is snow, which is gone by early
July. Fires are not permitted.
Be sure to stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount
(360-873-4500 ext. 39) or the ranger station at Hozomeen. A permit (no
charge) is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Hunting is
permitted in Ross Lake National Recreation Area in accordance with
Washington State Hunting Regulations. Rangers have maps and current
information to assist you in planning a safe, fun trip.