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.
At the two mile mark, we came to the signed junction of the PCT and the Union Peak Trail.
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?),
From where we were on the ridge, the huge east face of Union Peak was directly in front of us.
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,
and those – like Mt McLoughlin – to the south.
The trail was largely clear of snow up past the narrow section,
but then disappeared under steep snow about halfway to the summit.
But it was pretty easy to simply cut to the left (south) here and scramble up a series of snow-free ledges,
to the summit, for views in all directions.
After lunch on the summit, it was back down the ledges,
past some flowers just getting started,
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!