Vesper Peak – The Most Epic Trail in Washington State
The view from the top of Vesper Peak is one of the most beautiful views both Dave and I had ever seen in our lives. It was one of those views that left us in absolute awe of how beautiful the world is and made me think to myself… “we are SO lucky because this is a view that not all that many people will see in their lifetime.”
Layers and layers of mountains surround you at the top, each a different shade of blue or purple. And don’t get me started on the sunsets from up at Vesper Peak! 😍
From Vesper Peak you will be able to see Lake Elan which you will also hike past on your way up. From the very top, if you peer over the edge, you will look down onto Copper Lake.
Fun Fact: We met another hiker at the peak who told us that he had attempted to canoe and then hike to Copper Lake once, but it was impossible to get there without bush-bashing for a LONG TIME.
Vesper Peak is a trail that is getting more and more popular. It is hidden away in the North Cascades mountains and the hike itself is a bit of a grind!
The trail is sun exposed for most of the way and is long and technical. This is one of those trails that seems to get harder and harder the closer you get to the top, but let me assure you that it is 1000% worth it!
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about doing Vesper Peak as a day hike, backpacking to Vesper Peak and whether or not you need permits.
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📃 Hike Stats
Distance: 11.98km / 7.4 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 1,273m / 4,176 ft
Time: 5-8 hours
Dogs allowed: Yes
Toilets: Yes, at the trailhead
ℹ Everything You Need to Know About Hiking to Vesper Peak
📍 Where is Vesper Peak Located
Vesper Peak is located in Washington State in the North Cascades/Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest region.
It is about a 50 minute drive from Granite Falls to the Vesper Peak Trailhead and 2 hours from Seattle.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to get to Vesper Peak Trailhead
The trailhead for Vesper Peak is just off the Mountain Loop Highway. Once you turn off the highway, you will need to take a bit of a bumpy 4×4 road. The road is not too bad and we saw some sedans on it. Our Hyundai Santa Fe had no problem at all.
Where to Park
Once you get all the way to the end of the forest road, you will see the trailhead. There is not a lot of actual official parking by the trailhead so you will need to park on the side of the road.
It can get a little hectic when its busy here because there isn’t a lot of room for 2-way traffic in the places where the cars are all parked. We found having an SUV was helpful to get off the road as much as possible.
At the trailhead, you will find a pit toilet. There was toilet paper supplied when we were there but I recommend bringing your own just in case.
There is a sign in book shortly after you start the hike to keep track of the number of hikers on a daily basis.
After the trailhead, there are no more facilities along the trail so it’s the green toilet from here on out. Don’t forget to pack out all toilet paper with you.
🎫 Park Permits
There are no permits required for camping at Vesper Peak or hiking the trail, however, you will need a park permit shown on your car dashboard as the trailhead is located in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
You can either use your annual America the Beautiful Pass which you can purchase here or you can purchase a day pass from the nearest service centre which you can locate using the map on this website.
🥾 How Hard is the Vesper Peak Trail
I’m not going to lie. Between the extreme heat from the sun because of how exposed the trail was, to the steep slippery switchbacks to the final climb through the boulder field, I found that each section of this trail was difficult in its own way.
Vesper Peak is quite technical, especially in the last section to climb to the peak. You have to navigate a boulder field with HUGE steep boulders. It is also quite hard to follow the trail in the last section of the hike. It’s a bit of a choose your own adventure.
Perhaps with a day backpack, it would be much more of an easy hike, but with our backpacking bags, I struggled a quite a bit but I still made it.
🕐 Vesper Peak Hiking Time
It took us 4 hours to get to the top of Vesper Peak and 3 hours 15 minutes back. Keep in mind that we had our heavy overnight backs on so we were slower than most of the day hikers.
The Vesper Peak trail could take you anywhere from 5-8 hours depending on your hiking ability.
🐶 Can Dogs do the Vesper Peak Trail
Dogs are allowed on the Vesper Peak trail and we saw a LOT of adventure pups when we were there, but make sure you bring plenty of water and food for them and know their hiking abilities.
As I noted above, a lot of this trail is technical with climbing over large boulders etc.
⌚ When is the Best Time of the Year to do the Vesper Peak Trail
The best time to do the Vesper Peak Trail is in Summer or early Fall. During Winter, there will be a LOT of snow up here so you probably don’t want to venture out here then. The snow usually hangs around through the Spring, melting properly in July or August.
📵 Cell Service
There is no cell service out here so make sure you have downloaded offline maps and a trail guide and someone knows where you have gone. This is a popular day hiking trail on the weekends during Summer, so you will likely see others on the trail, however it is much less popular to stay overnight.
🚱 Where to Filter Water
There is some creek water near the beginning of the trail, however I recommend carrying enough water to get you all of the way to the lake. You can then filter water from the lake. There are no water sources at the peak.
We use this water filter on all of our overnight backpacking trips. We also love having Nuun Sport Electrolytes with us to add to our water to keep us hydrated. They are also make our water much yummier. 😊
🐻 Are there Bears in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest?
Black Bears are common in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Make sure you have bear spray with you and ensure you know how to use it.
🚶♀️ Vesper Peak Trail Description
The hike to Vesper Peak is 11.98km / 7.4 miles return with an elevation gain of 1,273m / 4,176 ft. The trail can be broken up into 6 sections and I’ll take you through each section below.
The trail starts in the forest and starts off pretty easy. Enjoy the shade during this part of the trail because it does not last. In the forest, you will cross a little creek and slowly emerge out of the trees into the sun.
The trees start disappearing little by little. You will emerge out of the forest into a really shrubby area where there is no shade so this it can get pretty hot here. You also start climbing a bit during this section of the trail. It’s not overly steep, but noticeable.
The Small Boulder Field
After the meadows and a little more of a climb through some trees, you will reach the first boulder field. It’s easy to lose the trail here but you just need to continue heading straight up through the middle of the valley.
Eventually, the trail becomes a lot easier to follow. You will need to look out for a arrow painting onto a rock that is pointing up to your right. It’s super easy to miss and we saw a lot of people having to backtrack to get back onto the trail.
Steep and Scree-Covered Switchbacks
The arrow leads you up to some steep switchbacks which take you up over the mountain to the other side. Be careful hiking up these switchbacks because they are covered in tiny slippery rocks and the trail is quite narrow.
Watch your footing and if you happen to accidentally mis-lodge any rocks that start rolling down the mountain, shout out to give any hikers below you a heads up to get out of the way. This happened a few times while we were hiking both up and back down the switchbacks.
Passing the Lake and Keep Going Up
After the switchbacks, you will hike along a ridgeline on the side of another boulder field, shortly before reaching the lake.
To get to the lake, you will actually have to detour off the trail to the peak for about 10 minutes. You will reach a small creek. Follow the creek to reach the lake. You will have to walk across more boulders to get there.
If you want to head straight up to Vesper Peak, instead of turning right to follow the creek down to the lake, cross straight over the creek and up the other side. It’s hard to see the trail at first. This is the area where you will see a few of the potential camping spots.
Keep hiking as the trail takes you up above the lake. There is a little bit of scrambling in this section and you will need to squeeze past a few trees that are very close to the trail.
The Big Boulder Field
This is the hardest part of the hike in my opinion, especially if you have a heavy overnight backpack on. By this stage you are exhausted and ready to sit down and rest but instead you have to navigate to try to find the easiest way up through the boulder field (because there is no real official trail).
There are sections here where you might need to use your hands a little to balance yourself. I recommend trying to stick to follow the rock pylons, whilst also trying to find the most easy-looking route available.
From the bottom of the boulder field, it doesn’t look like that far up, but when you are in it, it feels never ending! When you finally reach the top, you will need to turn right to keep heading up to Vesper Peak.
At the very top, you will see a huge pile of rocks. This is the peak! You have made it! If you then peer over the top onto the other side, you will witness the most incredible view that you have probably ever seen. Copper Lake, surrounded by layers of mountains looks like a work of art.
Soak it all in, if you are camping and can stay for sunset, I highly recommend it! This view is magical at sunset and makes a great photo if you are a photographer.
🌲 Leave No Trace
Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.
⛺ Camping on Vesper Peak
There are no official campsites in the area around Vesper Peak but you can camp if you wish.
Where to Camp
Below the peak, you will reach Lake Elan, which is a great place to set up camp. There aren’t all that many flat spots however so it will require some searching. We noticed a good spot closest to the trail near the lake that you can see from the creek.
Alternatively, you could continue hiking up the trail towards the peak. We camp across quite a few good flat spots just above the lake next to the trail that looked like they had definitely been used for camping before.
If you aren’t afraid of hikes, there is a really epic spot up just under the peak, which is where we camped thanks to a tip from our friend and fellow blogger, Alec from explorewithalec.com. To find the spot where we camped, head straight up to Vesper Peak until you are only about 25m / 80ft from the top and it will be on your left-hand-side.
Where and How to Store your Food
If you are camping, make sure you have either a bear cannister or Ursack which you should store well away from your tent with all of your smelly items including toothpaste during the night. If you are are confident in doing a bear hang, you can hang your food in a tree far away from any tents.
Do I Need to Book a Permit to Camp?
Vesper Peak is not currently permitted and so as long as you can get a parking spot and find somewhere to camp, you can camp.
👚 What We Packed to Backpack to Vesper Peak
Our Hiking and Camping Gear for Vesper Peak
😉 For a full guide containing all of the things we take hiking, check out our hiking gear guide!
Camera Gear we brought with us to Vesper Peak
📸 For a full list of all of the camera gear we use, check out our Camera Gear Guide!
🥾 Other Great Hikes Nearby
If you are staying in the area or road tripping through Washington, there are loads of other hikes for you to do while you are there.
Distance: 9.5km / 5.9 miles | Elevation Gain: 441m / 1,446 ft | Time: 3-4 hours | Difficulty: Moderate
Lake Twenty Two is only a 30 minute drive from the Vesper Peak Trailhead. It is a much easier trail that takes you to an alpine lake high up in the mountains. We did this hike during Winter and although the lake was frozen over and covered in snow, the surrounding area was so gorgeous.
Park Butte Fire Lookout
Distance: 11.5km / 7.2 miles | Elevation Gain: 615m / 2,020 ft | Time: 4 hrs 15 mins | Difficulty: Moderate
Park Butte Lookout is a little further away than Lake Twenty-Two. It is about a 2.5 hour drive to get to the trailhead from the Vesper Peak Trailhead. This is another day hike that can also be done as a backpacking trip. You can actually stay in the fire lookout or camp in the meadows just below it.
The views from the Park Butte Lookout trail are gorgeous and you are SUPER close to Mount Baker.
🛌 Places to Stay Nearby that are SO Worth it!
If you are looking at staying nearby Vesper Peak, there are some lovely places to stay.
Constellations Lake House at Chelan – This gorgeous house is located in Granite Falls, about a 45-50 minute drive to the Vesper Peak trailhead. It sleeps 6 people and is located right on the lake.
Southshore Water Fun – This holiday home also sleeps 6 people and is right on the lake. It has a hot tub and lovely outdoor seating area looking out over the lake and mountains.
Mountain View Lodge – The Mountain View Lodge is much more of a classic style hotel. It has pet friendly rooms, a swimming pool and hot tub and a BBQ area with picnic tables and a fire pit.
If you are spending some time in Washington State and are looking for more things to do and see, check out these guides!
- How to Spend 4 Days in Olympic National Park
- How to Spend 1 Day in Mount Rainier
- How to Visit Scenic Hot Springs in Washington
- How to Spend a Magical Christmas in Leavenworth
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