washington hiking stuart peak layers

An incredible backpacking trip to the top of Vesper Peak

If you’re looking for an extraordinary and relatively easy-to-access summit in the Central Cascades, the Vesper Peak hike has it! At four miles up, it’s a challenging yet stunning hike that will leave you longing for more time staring out at the layers and mountain peaks.

For those looking for an epic overnight, I highly recommend backpacking Vesper Peak, as it will allow you sunset and sunrise photography opportunities that few other mountains offer. You’re in a sea of peaks and layers, which is a dream for any photographer.

What You Need to Know to Summit Vesper Peak

Backpacking Vesper Peak is, to this day, one of the most magical and insane trips I’ve done. Carrying up a heavy pack full of photography gear up the 4,000+ feet ascent was rough but so worth it.

vesper peak washington hike backpacking vesper peak
vesper peak hike

How to hike Vesper Peak in the Central Cascades

Need-to-know trip details for Vesper Peak hike

  • 8 miles round trip
  • 4,000 feet of elevation gain
  • Height of Vesper Peak 6,221
  • Straightforward dirt road in but needs higher clearance than a standard sedan.
  • Exposed hike, so bring lots of water, use sunblock or a sun shirt, and have a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Not for novice hikers
  • Bring a water filter to fill up near the lake (around the 3-mile mark)
Vesper Peak hike backpacking vesper peak

Heading up to Vesper Peak

The Vesper Peak trail is wildly beautiful yet grueling and will exhaust even those in good shape. While the first half mile is a pleasant stroll through the woods, it soon ramps up with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain in less than four miles. Yep, brutal.

Once out of the woods, you’ll encounter switchbacks through an overgrown trail that will feel like the sun has chosen you specifically to torture. Finally, you’ll briefly reach shade after what seems like forever before continuing up the gully toward Headley Pass. The trail is obvious, even as it turns from dirt to rock, and soon, you’ll be going up some of the steepest switchbacks of your life to the Headlee Pass. There’s low risk, but the narrow trail can contain loose rocks.

Getting to Headlee Pass on the Vesper Peak Trail

Once you reach the pass, you’ll drop 100 feet in elevation and cross a boulder field, providing your first glimpse of Vesper Peak. Five minutes later, you’ll find a creek draining from Sperry Lake. I recommend filling up before your final summit push.

While the bugs had been a nuisance before the final push on the Vesper Peak hike, they became an infestation soon after you cross the stream. So pack bug spray and put it on early, or at least at the lake. You’ll thank me later!

The Summit Push for Vesper Peak

drone PNW summits Vesper Peak hike
mount baker sunrise photography

Now depending on when you do it, you’ll have between some snow and a lot of snow on the northeast face. Microspikes are a good idea, and possibly an ice axe if that makes you feel more comfortable. The ascent isn’t too steep or terrifying, and the slide risk is minimal.

Once at the summit of Vesper Peak, you’ll have stunning views of Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mt. Baker, and many others. It’s truly inspiring.

Gear I brought for BackpackingVesper Peak

Camera gear I brought for the Vesper Peak hike

backpacking vesper peak
backpacking vesper peak
glacier peak photography Vesper Peak hike

For those interested in Backpacking Vesper Peak

There are a handful of camping locations below the summit for those looking to backpack Vesper Peak. There are also numerous ones at Sperry Lake. But specifically for the summit, I doubt you’ll run into any competition if you go on a weekday. However, it can get busy on the weekends, so an early departure may be wise on your Vesper Peak hike.

Please camp on durable surfaces to not impact the sub-alpine vegetation. The best location is the rock slab and dirt patch about 30 feet below the summit. Need gear for backpacking? Take a look at this recent article.

I hope ya’ll have a great Vesper Peak hike and get to enjoy some crazy views!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

Subscribe to my blog!

Follow my adventures on TikTokFacebook, and Instagram.

Are you an outdoors brand or tourism board and would like to work together? Please take a look at my photography portfolio here.