www.willhiteweb.com - Hiking, Climbing and Travel
Lemei Rock Loop
The Indian Heaven Wilderness is at the far south end of the Washington Cascades. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through the center but the wilderness area is most known for its abundant lakes and trails. The highest point is Lemei Rock, the 93rd most prominent point in Washington. Lemei Rock is the remnants of an old volcano. The location is the most prominent spot between the triangle of Mount Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mount Hood so you know the view should be interesting. Nearby are the next two highest points in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, Bird Mountain and Sawtooth Mountain. This loop can include all three or none of these peaks. Lemei is the best and can be climbed by any trail hiker who is willing to try something just a touch more advanced.
Distance: 13+ miles for the loop with peaks
Summit Elevations: 5,925, 5,706 & 5,353 feet
Elevation Gain: 3,700+ feet with the loop and peaks
Access: Good Gravel
Cultus Creek Campground makes for the best start and end point as two different trails leave the campground. Indian Heaven Trail #33 starts from inside the campground loop while the Cultus Creek Trail is right off the road at the entrance. The walk between is about 3 minutes.
Just follow the trails, but their are many trails not shown on most USGS maps. Even the PCT has been re-routed with the entire segment used in this loop being new. Often the new PCT is parallel to the old just a hundred feet away for long distances. I have put the new PCT location on the map below and you can see just how close. For the off-trail segment of Lemei Rock, the brush free route is on the east side. Follow the Lemei Trail from Cultus Lake to 5600 feet where a climbers trail cuts right into a little basin on the east side of the cliffs. Look for a eye hole on the ridge top with sky coming through. The summit gully is to the left. Once you are in the gully, it really isn't very steep and a scramble trail exists. Once on the ridge, a easy path winds up to the comfortable summit area.
For Bird Mountain, you'll have to do some off trail work but the terrain is easy and fairly brush free on the south side. There are many game trails that helped as well.
For Sawtooth Mountain, you'll need to be motivated. Although the trail goes to within feet of the summit, it does come short and the mountain lives up to its name. Several climbers trails lead to rocky spots on the ridge but none go all the way to the highpoint. To reach the highest point without rope and gear, you have to take the trail to the far northeast point of the mountain where it is dropping down the ridge. Then climb off the trail up and to the east a bit through some really bad and steep brush. You come out on the ridge to the east of the highpoint. Then it is a exposed class 3 scramble 40 feet to the summit. Room for one person in a interesting little cove.
From the Gorge in Carson, go north on Wind River Road for 16 miles. Turn right onto Lone Butte Road for about 8 miles. Turn right on gravel road #24 and follow for 4.2 miles to the Cultus Creek Campground. From the north, it's much more complicated, take FR 23 south out of Randle to FR 90. Take FR 88 up and over to Big Tire Junction, turn right on FR 885 (Lone Butte Road), follow to gravel turn-off for FR 24, go 4.2 miles to Cultus Creek Campground (you'll need a Gazetteer). You can also come in from the west through the south side of Mt. St. Helens.
From Steamboat Mountain
Lemei Rock from Bird Mountain
Only other person I saw
From the Lemei Trail, this is the route to the summit
A closer look at the class 2-3 gully to the summit
Looking down the gully (looks much steeper than it really is)
Looking south from Lemei Rock
Looking east from Lemei Rock
Mt. St. Helens
Cultus Lake and Lemei Rock
More views from Lemei Rock
Indian Heaven Wilderness
Mt. St. Helens from Bird Mountain
View north from Bird Mountain
Sawtooth Mountain trail sign along the PCT (this trail was once the PCT)
Foggy views from the summit of Sawtooth Mountain
South side of Sawtooth Mountain where the trail goes up
Blue is trail, yellow is off trail routes, red tents are where I saw nice campsites