Surprise Lake Trail

Surprise Lake Trail

Distance: 2.3 miles
Approx. Running time: 1 hour
Difficulty: More Difficult

Pass Needed: NO


The Surprise Lake Trail runs from the Cayada Creek road up to Surprise lake and is located to the east of Carbonado.  For the most part the trail is fairly easy if not a bit rocky.  Two obstacles shortly after the 2nd switchback earns the trail it's 'More Difficult' rating.

Over the years Kennedy Creek, which crosses the trail in several places, has re-routed itself to follow a portion of the trail shortly after the 2nd switchback.  After crossing Kennedy Creek for the last time the road smooths out a bit but becomes very brushy.

A word of caution:  Don't go open cockpit on this trail, make sure you have doors, unless you want to end up looking like a tourist caught tagging cars with spray cans in Singapore.  If you care about your paint job this is not the trail for you.

The 2nd half of the trail runs along a narrow shelf road and affords some beautiful views of Mt. Rainier and the Carbon River below.  Occasional rocks along the road will tilt you off-camber towards the side and might leave some feeling a little weak in the knees.

Just before you reach the lake the trail splits.  The road to the left runs around the south side of the lake and someone had put in a lot of effort clearing the brush from this road but it eventually comes to a dead end with no real view of the lake or access to it.  Following the trail around to the right will lead you through more brush as you work your way around to the northeast side of the lake.  There are a couple of rocky spots that will challenge your suspension here.  There is one more track splitting off to the right just before the trail end but it is short, pointless and just a lot more brush.

Surprise lake is a beautiful view as are the surrounding hills.  For those who like to camp there is a small area to pitch a tent at the end of the trail.  Parking here is tight and getting six Jeeps in here was about all there was room for.



Getting There:

From Wilkeson follow hwy 165 south towards Mowich Lake.  Shortly after crossing the Fairfax Bridge the road splits.  Bear to the left to take the Carbon Glacier Road towards the Carbon River entrance to Rainier National Park.  Just before the road ends at the ranger station is Cayada Creek road on the left.  Cross the one lane bridge across the Carbon River, Cayada Creek road becomes gravel after the bridge.  After the bridge follow Cayada Creek road around a right hand curve and continue east 3.5 miles to the trail head for Surprise lake on the left.