For years, we had heard of and seen pictures of this Missouri Lakes area and looked forward to seeing what visual delights awaited us. It was about a 2.5 or 3 mile hike to the lakes on a very well-worn trail. The trail passes one interesting small, gorge section where the main creek has carved a short, slot canyon. Up above here, it begins to level off and pass through beautiful meadows. Be advised that as of summer, 2019, a large-scale avalanche from the previous winter left a quarter-mile wide swath of downed trees blocking the Missouri Lakes Trail at about 2 or 2.5 miles in on the hike to the lakes. The Forest Service plans to attempt to "clear" some of this damage in the fall of 2019 after all the snow and ice buried under the morass of shredded trees has melted off. In the mean time, a temporary use trail has evolved that gets hikers through the maze with little difficulty. If the trail has not been cleared through the avalanche area, then here's one way around it: When you come to the edge of the avalanche damage, look to the right for a fainter trail that heads uphill, then later begins a higher contour that skirts much of the damage. You'll still have to climb over or under a few fallen trees but you can easily get through it all with a backpack. Towards the end of the damage area, the trail drops back down losing most of the elevation it gained, in order to rejoin the original trail.
As for the overall condition of this trail, it is a highly used path so it is well-worn, rocky with many exposed tree roots and not too kind to tired feet. It's a toe-stubbing challenge for tired hikers, backpackers and climbers. Two of the three stream crossing have good bridges. One last crossing closer to the lakes just has a cluster of loose logs to cross on. When the trail brings you close to the first lake at 11,420 ft., take some time to study your map and determine the location of Savage Peak which will be looking back to the SSW.
By that point, you should actually be past the peak, but directly east of the lake at 11,420 ft. From this vantage point and looking a little SW, there is a steep but mostly grassy slope leading for several hundred feet up to a saddle in the ridge running north from Savage. (In our photos, this slope/shallow gully is filled with snow.) Head west across the grassy terrain seeing numerous flowers and mushrooms later summer and then start up the slope beyond the lake on its west side. You should come to another smaller lake at 11,460 ft. Continue WSW to gain the slope. The next 1,200 feet are steeper than might be anticipated, with footing being a little insecure at times if there is no snow. If covered with snow, then ice axe and micro-spikes may prove beneficial. As you hike up you may be rewarded with numerous paintbrush flowers that display a vivid pink coloration. As you gain elevation, all the lakes in the area become visible and we marveled at their beauty and coloration. Intersect the north ridge just below the 12,600 ft. contour and maybe a half mile south of the 12,898 ft. summit marked on the survey map. From here, it is just an easy walk along the ridge to the south over mostly rocky, but manageable terrain. From this ridge there are excellent views of the peaks to the west that surround the Strawberry Lakes area. The 500 or more feet of gain will pass quickly and soon, you will emerge on the large summit of small rock and tundra. For us, it was a great day to pause here and eat and enjoy the view. We had an unobstructed view of the entire Missouri Lakes basin and some of the summits to the north such as Whitney Peak. A summit register confirmed to us that we had climbed the correct peak.
For our descent, we decided to continue and follow the ridge that turned east, then ENE and would drop us back down into the valley which we had hiked up. We had surveyed this ridge earlier in the day and had a good idea of where to descend off it, so we headed on down, making rapid progress on the loose rocks and tundra. We stopped a couple of times along the way to view the spectacular slash in the NE face of the peak. This gigantic cleft plummeted hundreds of feet away from us. It would certainly pose a formidable ascent for any team of climbers in early season, probably being filled with ice and snow, but for now, it was nothing more than a giant funnel for rocks to ricochet their way down. At a level spot in the ridge above 11,700 ft., where a few trees begin to appear, we dove off to the north and made a steep descent on grassy benches broken by rocky outcrops and found our way through the forest on game trails that eventually led us back to the main trail. From here, it was just a two mile hike back out, with a few pauses for pictures of the vivid red mushrooms (definitely poisonous). Total hiking time was under 6 hours.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.