Total Distance: 5 km
Return Time: 4 hours
Elevation Gain: 961 m
Region: Annie Lake
This route is a great challenge. It has it all - steep hiking, bushwhacking, nearly 1,000 m elevation gain, wildflowers, ridge walking, towering rocky pillars, and amazing views. The route is up the north end of what is known as Grey Ridge, a series of peaks stretching along Annie Lake and the Wheaton River (Needle Mountain, Mount Gilliam, Surprise Mountain, Pyramid Mountain and Mount Gray).
Drive south from Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway and turn right at the Carcross Cutoff onto the South Klondike Highway. After about 17 kms turn right onto the Annie Lake Road (which will quickly turn into a dirt road). After 16 kms on the Annie Lake Road you will come to a curve before reaching Annie Lake itself (approximately 1.4 km before the lake). Here you can pull off the road on the left, where you'll see a side road or ATV trail, which parallels the main road.
From where you park follow the ATV trail into the forest to the southeast for about 120 m. Then start heading straight up the ridge on your left through the trees. It is pretty easy bushwhacking over juniper and kinnickinnick shrubs in the relatively open mixed forest. Eventually the forest gives way to a steep open ridge. Continue to make your way steeply uphill making your way around any rocky cliff areas.
After a total of 350 m of elevation gain you should reach a small plateau dotted with more trees partway up the mountain. From here, head slightly north along the treed ridge (for about 70 m) and then cut down through the conifer trees, to reach the base of the next part of the mountain. This is where the bushwhacking really begins.
It looks like you can avoid some of the bushwhacking by reaching some open rock patches along the way, but these don't last for long and there is not much you can do to avoid the willows. Battle your way up, keeping slightly to the left of the rocky cliffs above you. After 50-60 m of bushwhacking elevation gain, you should be through the worst and climbing up in the open alpine. Mid- to late-June is great time for wildflowers, and will help you forget about the nasty willows bellow.
Soon you will reach the top of the ridge. Then head right (southeast) for 600 m to the summit, navigating around the rocky steep ridges. There is a summit cairn at the top. There are so many gorgeous views along the ridge looking down at the rocky pinnacles of Needle Mountain and down to Annie Lake.
There is so much to explore in this area. You could continue along the ridge to the next unnamed peak and onwards along Gray Ridge if you have more time. Return the way you came up, knowing that the bushwhacking is easier and faster on the way down.
Glenda July 31, 2020
Thanks for posting this great hike. I'd like to reiterate what the previous poster said. You can avoid almost all bushwhacking beyond the small plateau/bench by heading for the open slope to the north. Someone has kindly flagged this route, and it looks like it has been used often enough that it's becoming a trail.
I also recommend gaiters to avoid getting juniper needles in your boots, which might be the *real* reason it's called Needle Mountain.
Sam July 20, 2020
Hiked this on Sunday & it was awesome. We overshot start of the hike and ended up having to sidle back towards to plateau before the main climb. When you leave the parking spot/ATV trail, start the ascend almost right away through the trees, don’t follow the tempting well worn trail towards Annie Lake. Epic views and rock formations/pinnacles at the summit. There’s no real trail, but would recommend aiming for the ridge on the far left to hike up, further left than what it shows on the map here. We came down that way, there’s less bushwhacking plus it seems like the most direct route.
Kyle August 12, 2019
The bushwacking was diffifult and it is very steep but well worth it at the top (bring gloves). 10km total, took 2:20 going up and an hour going down. We hung out at the summit for about an hour to explore and enjoy the views.