I had an extra free day, so instead of doing a local trail like Mount Baldy again, I thought I’d just drive up to Cottonwood Lakes and summit Cirque Peak – and come back the same day. I was up at 4:00 am and in 3-1/2 hours I was at the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. The weather was perfect. The trail gradually ascends to Cottonwood Pass, then descends to Chicken Spring Lake. I grabbed a quick snack by the lake, then got back on the trail. The trail becomes the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at this point and skirts around Cirque Peak.
I left the trail about a half mile past the lake and moved straight up the mountain until I reached a high ridge. From there the peak was easily visible. I moved across increasingly steep talus for the last half mile to the summit.
I made the summit in about five hours. After enjoying the view for 20 minutes, I headed down. It took three hours to reach the trailhead, then I headed home. I was pretty tired, so the four-hour drive home was pretty rough – but well worth it.
If you’re not accustomed to going off-trail, you might want to think twice about this hike. It’s technically class 2 travel. You’ll need to use a little bit of navigation to find the trail again after your descent. If you’re by yourself or if you’re not comfortable with off-trail navigation, you might want to sit this one out. Otherwise, it is a fantastic day hike.