Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mt Washington (Snoqualmie Pass)

Hike Route: John Wayne Pioneer trail => Mt Washington Trail

Update 22Nov - per recent reports, the upper part of this hike is now snow covered.

This 10 mile hike is not mentioned in most hiking books. A sightly outdated description is done by Manning in this book. I had mixed emotions about doing this hike since others seem to have different hike reports about how to actually reach the Mt Washington Peak.

Some mention using the Great Wall Trail (more on this later), while others seem to say "its easy to find your way". All of this made me a bit nervous about getting lost (or discouraged) on the way up.

In any case, once your find the start, the trail is marked at most junctions -- with helpful rock stacks at others, left by other friendly hikers.

This is a steep hike - it gains 3,400 in elevation along the 5 miles up to the peak. Its probably not for kids and dont expect any views until you reach Owl Hike Spot -- 2 miles up. The trail surface is mostly loose rock for the first 4 miles.

The trailhead is on the South side of the very large parking lot. There is a bathroom and donation box as well here at the trailhead. Take the trail up toward the John Wayne Pioneer trail, upon reaching the road keep to the right. After passing the sign below, look to the left for the start of the trail.

The trail from the John Wayne trail is unmarked - so its easy to miss.

The uphill trek begins almost right away. The trail is a bit rock and steep in parts -- not the best trail surface, but its not too bad. Be sure to wear boots to save your ankles.

After passing some cool rock cliffs and caves, the first intersection is marked with "MT WA" to the right.

The first two miles is almost all long uphill stretches.

After about 2 miles (and 1,600 of feet elevation gain), you reach Owl Hike Spot. It takes about 2 hours to get to this point at 2800 feet elevation. There is a bench here and a clear view of North Bend and Rattlesnake Ledge. Folks may reach this point and decide they have had enough of the uphill grind and turn back down the mountain.

I decided to continue on to the summit. After the Owl Hike Spot, you start to notice some really well done trailwork.

Just a short distance from the Owl Hike Spot, you will reach the junction with the Great Wall Trail and the route toward Mt. Washington. Other reports say the Great Wall trail adds a three hours to your trek to the peak. I decided to keep to the right and continue on the shorter route to Mt. Washington.

After the junction, there is a small creek to cross. While its fast running, its easy to cross via the rocks in the middle.

The next intersection is at the pond in the basin of the mountain.

Take the route to the Left, marked by this nice rock stack on the site.

The upper part of this hike opens up a bit with great views of the surrounding Snoqulmie Pass Mountains.

There is a rock slide to cross along the way -- plus some great views of Mount Si and other views to the North and West. Dont bother looking for the Peak on you way up -- the trail rounds the mountain in a way where you can't really see the Peak until you are right on it.

Almost at the top, there was a very cool lookout point looking toward the North.

After a final steep uphill, the new trail connects with the original trail to the Peak of Mt. Washington. At the top are a couple great viewpoints in all directions.

It was a fairly gray day -- with an approaching storm, so my views were great but a bit dark. Mt Rainier can be seen from here, but was obscured by clouds.

There were also great views of Chester Morse lake and the Ceder river watershed area.

I wasnt able to find the connection with the Great Wall trail that others have mentioned at the top of the Mountain. So I just turned back and went back down the Mt Washington Trail toward the parking lot.

Good not-so-popular hike with fantastic views on clear days. The new work on this trail is really well done - kudos for those that made it happen.


View Mt Washington Trail in a larger map

Area - Twin Falls Natural Area/Olallie State Park
Trail - Mt Washington Trail
Map - Green Trails Map: Bandera No. 206 (also - 206S) - both maps didnt seem to have the new trail
Length - 10 miles out and back - Moderate Hike (about 3,400' Elevation gain)
Trail - Rocky but established trail, steep with long uphills.
Dogs - On leash
Bikes - No
Views - Views after reaching 2,800 feet
Getting There - From Seattle - Exit 38 on I-90, turn right off the freeway. Turn Right again on the dirt road to the large parking lot.
Other Trails - Great Wall Trail, John Wayne Pioneer trail
Facilities - there a restroom at the trailhead parking lot
Fee - No fee, but there is a donation box - (Donate to the WTA)