OUTING 2 - Peppermint Pass Circuit

Peppermint Pass to Spire Lake basin, returning via the Morgan Pass trail.

Contour east around the buttress to the old mining road to Morgan Pass.
Bear Lake to the east with switchbacks behind.
Small valley draining east to Bear Lake.
Descent northeast to inlet of Bear Lake.
Split Lake from the outlet of the small lake northeast of Spire Lake.
Back (northwest) toward Peppermint Pass from a small lake.
Southeast through a notch north of Spire Lake.
South from Peppermint Pass to Spire Lake.
North from Peppermint Pass to Little Lakes Valley.
In the upper cirque, Peppermint Pass is the lower and easier chute on the right.
South toward Peppermint Pass from the unnamed lake above the Gem Lakes.

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Route Description

Outing 2 Data TableThis cross country route gains Peppermint Pass east of the imposing Bear Creek Spire, and loops through the Spire Lake basin back to the Morgan Pass trail (actually an old mining road). It's about 12.6 miles; allow perhaps 8.5 hours.

From US 395, take Rock Creek Road south out of Tom's Place to the Little Lakes Valley trailhead at Mosquito Flat, with easy vehicle access. Parking fills early during peak season.

From the trailhead head south, taking the right fork toward Gem Lakes at 2.7 miles, before the final climb to Morgan Pass. Leave the trail before reaching the upper lake, and climb an initially easy slot, before traversing right onto tedious boulders for the climb to the unnamed lake above. From the lake, follow the left valley south and up marker 1 (right leads to Dade Lake and Cox Col). Scramble over moraines until reaching the upper cirque. The lower, easier looking chute on the right is Peppermint Pass marker 2.

Ascend steep scree to gain Peppermint Pass (12,221 ft), which gives a nice view north to Long Lake and Chickenfoot Lake in Little Lakes Valley marker 3, and south to the Spire Lakes basin marker 4. Nothing is harder than Class 2.

Descend left on steep scree toward Spire Lake, and cross more tedious boulders southeast through a notch north of the lake marker 5. Continue to the outlet of a small lake on a bench, which gives a nice view back to Peppermint Pass marker 6, and forward toward Split Lake marker 7. Slabs make the going easier from this point.

Pass Split Lake and continue to another small lake, making a steeper descent northeast on slabs to a small valley marker 8 - creek bed really. Turn east, following the creek marker 9 toward Bear Lake and the switchbacks on the further slope that lead up to Morgan Pass marker 10.

Pass Bear Lake to the south, and from its outlet contour east across the buttress marker 11, then angle northeast to gain the road at the end of a switchback.

From here it is up about 800 ft to Morgan Pass (11,079 ft), and a total of 6.1 miles back to the trailhead at Mosquito Flat. Where the road forks, take the left one toward Morgan Lakes and the pass; right goes to the old mines.