Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
5,000.00 ft (1,524.00 m)
13.00 mi (20.92 km)
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Kaleetan Peak is an extremely recognizable peak within the I-90 area, as it sticks up like a jagged tooth, and is visible from most vantage points. Kaleetan's an extremely steep peak, and while it's overshadowed by its (more massive but slightly shorter) ice/rock/ski route-covered neighbor Chair Peak, it's a great introductory peak for wannabe scramblers who are looking to start with the basics of Pacific Northwest mountaineering. And while the climb up Kaleetan is appropriately called a scramble, it involves almost no exposure, so it allows people to challenge themselves in a pretty manageable way.

For those who are interested in a more scrambling-oriented climb, this description will also mention the White Ledges route (which is more direct and has more scrambling and exposure).



  • Seasonality: Kaleetan is over 6,200 feet tall, and gets a lot of snow. So unless you've got a lot of snow-travel experience, it's probably not a good idea until it's melted out, which tends to happen in mid to late June. From mid-June to mid-October, this route is generally in good shape.
  • Gear: All you'll need is your standard Pacific Northwest hiking kit unless you think you'll find snow up there, in which case you'll want microspikes and maybe an ice axe or poles. You may also consider a helmet, as there can be some rockfall from other climbers in the gully, though most folks won't bring one.
  • Number of Days: Most folks will climb Kaleetan in a day, though there's beautiful camping at Melakwa Lake if you want to turn it into an overnight!


The Climb

You'll start at the Denny Creek Trailhead, and wind through the mossy and wild coniferous forest, hiking beneath I-90 Westbound (which is on an overpass a few hundred feet overhead), before getting into the Denny Creek valley. The trail will gradually get steeper and steeper as you climb up 2,200 feet over 4.5 miles. You'll cross Denny Creek twice, first at a unique waterslide feature, and second at a more standard crossing (though it can be hard to find the trail again here). Continue switchbacking up to Hemlock Pass, and then drop off the back to Melakwa Lake. There's great camping in this area, and Upper Melakwa Lake can also be a nice area to explore.

From the Melakwa Lake outlet (at the southwest corner of the lake), you'll weirdly follow the signs for the toilet before passing right next to it and then continuing on your way uphill. The trail switchbacks back and forth before climbing up a few small rock scrambles (with no exposure). Soon enough you'll be up at 5,700 feet and on top of a small knob. Enjoy the views before dropping northwest down a few hundred feet. You'll cross some talus before beginning the last big climb. The rocks are a bit loose through this section, but not too steep, and you'll follow cairns up to a south facing gully. This is where you'll rejoin the route if you do the White Ledges alternative. Check to see if there are any other climbers above you (as they might kick rocks down toward you unintentionally) before beginning the final scramble up to the summit. It's never very steep or exposed in this gully, but make sure you're careful not to kick any rocks down on travelers below you!

At the summit, enjoy the panoramic views - you should be able to see Seattle, as well as peaks all around you, including Rainier to your south. Take the time to find and sign the summit register before beginning your descent!

Make sure you take the time to swim in Melakwa before continuing your descent, it's cold but extremely refreshing!


White Ledges Alternative (for more experienced scramblers)

If you want some more adventure/scrambling on this trip, then you'll hike up to the Melakwa Lake outlet, but instead of heading toward the toilet, you'll follow a use-trail along the western side of the lake. You'll get to a small creek between Upper Melakwa and main Melakwa, cross it, and then continue climbing up the valley to the east of Upper Melakwa Lake. From here, you'll continue up the valley, climbing up talus and loose rock. Keep an eye left, and around 4,800 feet, you'll see the distinctive White Ledges up above you, separated from you by a few tree and cliff bands (there's a beta photo of this view included in the photos). You'll find your way to the White Ledges, and then climb them! There's no real route, just pick your way up as seems best to you. You'll top them out just below the south facing gully off the summit.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Open Year-round



Fun summit scramble. Alpine lakes. Mountain views.


Trailhead traffic.

Pets allowed


Trailhead Elevation

2,270.00 ft (691.90 m)

Highest point

6,200.00 ft (1,889.76 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Old-growth forest



Typically multi-day


Permit required


Primary aspect

South facing

Drinking water

Unfrozen water


Nearby Lodging + Camping

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington


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