Union Peak (Crater Lake NP) 25-May-2015

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Union Peak is a strikingly pointy peak on the west side of Crater Lake National Park that’s both a fun hike and an amazing viewpoint. We first did it in 2012 and got to wondering if this year’s abysmal snow level would let us do it earlier as simply a hike. Plus the low pressure area that had been plaguing us for the last two weeks had finally moved east and sunshine had returned! So off we went…

The trailhead for Union Peak is where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Highway 62 inside of Crater Lake National Park. There are no amenities at this trailhead (other than places to park) but, while it’s inside the park, it’s outside the south entrance station and hence free and it’s well away from the summer crowds up at the lake. The first two miles or so from the trailhead were along the PCT through an avenue of tall trees, with only an occasional snow patch or fallen tree to clamber over or around.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Along the PCT

At the two mile mark, we came to the signed junction of the PCT and the Union Peak Trail.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

At the trail junction

From here, we went southwest on the Union Creek Trail, first following its somewhat faint tread and then, after it started disappearing under larger and larger snow patches, striking off cross-country up the peak’s northeast ridge. After about 4.5 miles, we came out on the ridge just below the peak, for views that seemed cluttered with an unusually large number of contrails (Memorial Day holiday travel?),

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Contrails over Oregon

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Contrails, with snowy Mount Bailey (left) and Diamond Peak (right) on the horizon

From where we were on the ridge, the huge east face of Union Peak was directly in front of us.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Union Peak up close

By this point, we had regained the trail and were able to follow it up around the south side of the peak, with views east toward the peaks surrounding Crater Lake,

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

On the trail, with the Crater Lake rim on the horizon

and those – like Mt McLoughlin – to the south.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Snowy Mount McLoughlin on the southern horizon

The trail was largely clear of snow up past the narrow section,

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

The trail is narrow in a few spots

but then disappeared under steep snow about halfway to the summit.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

We lose the trail to snow

But it was pretty easy to simply cut to the left (south) here and scramble up a series of snow-free ledges,

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Off the trail and around the snow

to the summit, for views in all directions.

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Pelican Butte (P), Devils Peak (D), Lucifer (L), and Mount McLoughlin (M) to the south

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

To the southwest: the huge brown scar from the 2008 Lonesome Creek Complex Fire

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

To the east: the Crater Lake rim (Mount Scott on far right), with Mount Thielsen (arrow) on the left

After lunch on the summit, it was back down the ledges,

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Off the trail and down around the snow

past some flowers just getting started,

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Mountain pasque flower (P. occidentalis)

and back down the ridge and along the PCT to the trailhead. A moderate (11 miles roundtrip; 1,600 feet of elevation gain) but really fun hike/scramble with big views! And we got to visit one of our beloved national parks too! And stop for pie at Beckie’s Cafe!

Union Peak Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Our track to and from Union Peak

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