Middle Tiffany (7,967′) and Rock Mountain (7,971′) in the Tiffany Highlands area northeast of Winthrop are on Washington’s list of 200 most prominent peaks. I’ve visited the beautiful Tiffany Highlands area many times, especially in July when the high alpine wildflowers put on a spectacular show. If it’s a wildflower explosion you want, the Tiffany Highlands area doesn’t disappoint!
I had originally planned to climb these two peaks as part of a 3 peak slam that included nearby Clark Peak, but a late start combined with hot temps left me bagging only Clark. A few days later I returned to finish my plan and so far this peakbagging outing has been my favorite of the summer.
Did I mention the wildflowers?
I started my hike on the Tiffany Lake trail, which departs from the Tiffany Springs Campground, 4 miles north of the Freezeout Ridge trail. It takes a bit over an hour to get there from Winthrop. The road is in mostly good shape, though it does have some sections of bad washboarding that offer up a good rattling. The descent after Freezeout is the worst section and requires some slow maneuvering through a small section of rough road. I’d imagine most cars can make it with some care, especially since I watched a couple towing a 25′ Airstream shockingly and successfully navigate their way through it.
The trail starts easily, with a slight decline the first mile to Tiffany Lake. It’s a nice warmup for the climb ahead to Honeymoon Pass. Tiffany Lake is quite beautiful, with many spots to sit by the shore and take in the views. Late in July I surprisingly had no trouble with bugs either.
The wildflowers were in full color nearly from the start of the trail. My first mile might have been a little slower than usual since I stopped so many times to enjoy them! Near Tiffany Lake the trail was covered in lupine, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many!
Shortly after the lake are a few skips and jumps to cross a small stream, then the trail turns upward through burned forest to Honeymoon Pass, just over 7,000′. To the right are fantastic views of the north face of Tiffany Mountain as well as the horseshoe shaped ridge to the left with both Middle Tiffany and Rock Mountain.
From Honeymoon Pass, the route to both Middle Tiffany and Rock Mountain heads cross country to the northeast. Along the way was a marshy meadow full of wildflowers, so I steered more easterly to travel on rocky durable surfaces and avoid the fragile vegetation. The route pointed me towards Middle Tiffany, so I decided to summit that one first, then head over to Rock. Read my notes at the end of this post to learn more about Leave no Trace Principles when traveling cross country.
The route up to Middle Tiffany was very straightforward with only a smattering of trees up high. It was easy to pick a course and head straight to the summit. The summit itself is a massive pile of rock, but an easy, short climb up. The benchmark is on a long spike and impossible to miss. The views from Middle Tiffany are spectacular in all directions! I could even see the smoke plume from the Nespelem Greenhouse fire that started July 23. Though it burned over 5,000 acres, it was fully contained on July 31.
I sat on the summit a while, enjoying the views and perusing the summit register. It contained the signature of Fay Pullen, one of my personal heroes who has been bagging peaks in the Cascades for over 50 years! She’s literally been everywhere. It’s amazing to see her signature on summit registers across the state.
After an enjoyable stay at Middle Tiffany, I was also a bit surprised by cool temps and on the way down almost wished I had brought some gloves! Quite a change from the melting hot day I had on Clark only a few days prior. I picked a route down Middle Tiffany that stayed high along the horseshoe ridgeline all the way to Rock. On our way down, Hudson found a remarkable skeleton tucked into the trees. A moose I presume!
The cross country route to Rock Mountain is straight-forward as well. The big question? Is it actually rockier than Middle Tiffany? The summit doesn’t have a rock pile, only a radio repeater and elaborate rock cairn, but I suppose there might be more rocks on the approach. Either way, both summits are fairly rocky.
I looked everywhere on the summit but found no benchmark or register on Rock. Perhaps it’s there, buried deep inside the rock cairn. After spending some time lounging on yet another enjoyable summit, Hudson and I finally departed, making our way back down to Honeymoon Pass and back to the trailhead. I’m actually really glad my 3 peak slam fell through because it gave me plenty of time to lounge on these fantastic summits and take in all the views and wildflowers. The Tiffany Highlands still remain one of my favorite spots around.
As part of this post, I wanted to address the ethics of cross country traveling combined with Leave no Trace principles.
I often find myself on cross country routes to summits and I’m militant about choosing routes that are low impact. Especially in sensitive meadow and wildflower areas like the Tiffany Highlands, I plan my route to keep my travel on durable surfaces like rock, sand, or gravel. It might take longer and it’s not always the straightest line between point A and B, but I’m happy knowing that I’m doing my part to keep my impact minimal. On this trip I followed rocky surfaces and a few well-defined game trails. Not a single wildflower was harmed or trampled and I will always keep it that way!
Date Climbed: 7/24/20
Distance (RT): 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,160′