The United States Congress designated the Clearwater Wilderness (map
) in 1984 and it now has a total of 14,647 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Washington
and is managed by the Forest Service.
The Clearwater Wilderness is bordered by
the Mount Rainier Wilderness
to the south.
At about 6,089 feet, Bearhead Mountain stands higher above the headwaters of the Clearwater River than any other point in this Wilderness. Streams and small lakes (few of which you can reach by trail) quench the thirst of the old-growth Douglas fir, western red cedar, and western hemlock that shade these ridges. Most of the streams drain northward toward the north-flowing river. Ferns and mosses form a large part of the understory. Ninety percent of the annual precipitation falls between October and May, as much as 25 feet of it as snow that often lingers up high until late July. Wildlife here is typical of the Cascades: bears, deer, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, marmots, and a small number of elk. Just to the south lies Mount Rainier National Park.
The Summit Lake Trail roams the forest for 2.5 miles and gradually ascends to Summit Lake, not a bad trail for horsepackers, with a view of Mount Rainier to the south. The Clearwater Trail (8.1 miles) descends east to the Clearwater River, then crosses Lily Creek and climbs to a small lake and on to the western Wilderness boundary. From the same trailhead as the Clearwater Trail, the Carbon Trail wanders south in a long bend for 9.4 miles to join the Summit Lake Trail. You may see quite a few other people, especially on weekends.