Friday, May 30, 2008

Mt. Teneriffe (early season, some snow)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: less than 1 hour
Hiking distance (round trip): 14 miles (22.5 km)
Elevation gain: 4,000 ft (1,200 m)
Highest point: 4,788 ft (1,450 m)
Green Trails Map: 174
Permits: No permits or fees are currently required to park at the trail head.

This must be one of Seattle's best-kept hiking secrets. The trailhead for Mt. Teneriffe is just a mile past the giant parking lot for Mt. Si, yet very few people bother to do this hike despite fantastic views it offers (much better than what you can get from Mt. Si). Well, there might be some reasons for it---this hike is significantly tougher than Si: it's 14 miles long, the elevation gain is 4000 ft, and the last mile follows an unmaintained (but reportedly easy to follow) trail.

We did this hike in late May and, given the time of the year, we hit snow at 3400ft and several miles before the summit. The first 6 miles follow an old logging road. But do not be fooled: it's hardly comfortable. It's really steep (I do not know what kind of a vehicle could ever go up this thing) and very rocky. It starts gentle but after about a couple of miles it starts climbing up and doesn't really become any easier until you reach 4000 feet -- at that point the road loses a little bit of elevation as it skirts a valley and then it gently climbs up to reach a pass at 4200 ft. This is where the road ends. From there on, you need to follow the ridge east. The path (which we couldn't see because of the snow) starts really steep but after the first little summit it becomes a little more gentle. As you approach the real summit, bear a little right (south) and ascend the summit from that side because it is least steep.

View from Mt. Teneriffe[A spectacular view of nearby mountains opened up at around 3,800 ft]

The Manning and Spring book advertises good views at 3200 feet but we didn't really get any clear view until about 3800 ft. It seems that the young forest---growing in the place of the trees cut down in 1960's---has grown significantly taller in recent years and for most of the way one only catches glimpses of the surrounding mountains through the tangle of branches.

But at 3800 ft, the view really opens up and one gets to see Mt. Si with its Haystack, Mt. Rainier in the distance, and lots of other nearby mountains. We were lucky enough to hike on a day with low cloud cover so we were spared the uninspiring view of I-90 though we could still hear its faint roar coming from below.

Mt. Si as seen from the top of Mt. Teneriffe[View of Mt. Si from the top of Mt. Teneriffe]

From the summit one gets a full 360 degrees view and the sight of Mt. Si below makes it clear just how much taller Teneriffe is.

Driving directions
To get there from Seattle, take I-90 East to North Bend (about 30 miles from Seattle). Get off the highway on 436th Ave SE, going North into the town. When you cannot go straight any further, turn left on SE North Bend Way and shortly after turn right onto SE Mt.Si Road. Follow it for about 3 miles (after 2 miles you will pass the parking lot for the Mt. Si trail head). Eventually you will reach a school bus turn-around point on your right. The trail head for Teneriffe will be on your left: it is a small informal parking lot (big enough to accommodate perhaps a dozen cars) at an entrance to what seems like a permanently-barred former logging road. The map below may be helpful for getting customized directions.

View Larger Map

This hike is also described in Manning and Spring's 55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass:

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Wallace Falls and Wallace Lake loop hike (early season)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 1 hour
Hiking distance: 8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Elevation gain: 1300 ft (400 m)
Green Trails Map: 142 (also request a map from the rangers at the trail head)
Driving map: try this google map
Permits: No permits or fees requires for a day hike.
Ranger station phone number: 360-793-0420

Wallace Falls is a very popular destination. Unfortunately, many visitors stop at Lower Falls, less than a mile in. Granted, there is a picnic shelter there, but the best views are from the Middle Falls lookout. In general this is an easy hike and we enjoyed it as an early season warm-up before other hikes become accessible.

Unlike most visitors, we made it into a loop hike. We started by following the woody trail to the Upper Falls. At the beginning the trail was very crowded but past Middle Falls we had it almost entirely to ourselves. From upper falls we followed blue signs up hill toward a logging road -- it is a steep but brief climb with no trail visible but the blue markers on the trees are easy to follow. We followed the road West for about 2 miles and eventually turned off toward Wallace Lake. Clear signs are posted at all important intersections so route finding was no problem at all (though it was helpful to get a map from the rangers at the trail head). Interestingly, half way from the Upper Falls to the lake we ran into snow and had to walk on it till just past the lake. The picnic tables near the lake were under a couple of feet of snow so we lunched on the floating driftwood on the lake (careful, some of it really is floating and will not support your weight!). Then we followed the recently completed Greg Ball trail (thank you WTA volunteers!), which joins the main trail just below the Lower Falls. From there we returned to the parking lot. The whole thing took us under 5 hours including a leisurely lunch.

[Middle and Lower Falls as seen from the Lower Falls lookout]

[Some words of wisdom from the park service]

Driving Directions:
Drive to Gold Bar, WA (on Rt. 2) and from there follow the signs to Wallace Falls State Park. The route is very clearly marked.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rock Mountain (via Snowy Creek)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 2.5 hours
Hiking distance (both ways): 9 miles (14.5 km)
Elevation gain: 3400 ft (1000 m)
Green Trails Map: 145
Driving map: try this google map
Permits:There are still signs saying that NW Forest passes are required but neither the trail nor the trail head (nor the signs) seem to be maintained so maybe the signs are just left over from the olden days.
Resources: 100 Hikes in Washington's Glacier Peak Region: The North Cascades by Spring and Manning (I really like the table they have at the front of the book listing the basic stats of each of the hikes)

This is beautiful hike leading to great views. The first 2 miles are pretty flat and go through an old growth forest. Eventually one reaches a wide flat meadow. The trail may get hard to find there -- it continues again on the left edge of the meadow and goes back among the trees. Right after leaving the meadow, the trails becomes steep in earnest. Eventually one leaves the trees and continues in the open until a pass, right below Rock Mountain. From there it is just a short hike along the ridge to the peak, where the foundations of an old lookout are still visible. All the major peaks are visible from Rock Mountain in good weather.

View from the top of Rock Mountain

Some parts of the trail along the first 2 miles were really badly overgrown. It made us wander a little if we were on the right track.

We did this hike in early August. When we started, it was warm and still with sporadic cumuli offering a little bit of shade. The downside of it being still was that we were bothered by swarms of black flies and some mosquitoes, which kept conspiring to deprive us of a proper lunch break. Even at the top there was no breeze to speak of so the flying menace kept following us. On our way back, we got caught in a light rain -- the cloud looked like it would pass quickly. Instead, the light rain turned into heavy rain, which turned into thunder storm. Some 10 minutes before we reached the car it started hailing!

Driving Directions:
From Seattle, drive on Rt.2 4 miles past Stevens Pass. Turn left onto Smith Brook Road (forest road 6700). After 5 miles on road 6700, get onto road number 6705 (the junction will be at a switch back so you will actually end up driging straight). From there, it is 3.6 miles to the trail head. The signs along the entire road are extremely faint and almost impossible to read -- use your odometer!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Goat Flats from Tupso Pass

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 2 hours
Hiking distance (both ways): 10 miles (16km)
Elevation gain: 2,000ft (600m)
Green Trails Map: 109 and 110
No permit appears to be necessary to park at the trailhead at this time

We did this hike in early July when there was still plenty of snow. The snow was soft and slushy and the trail was muddy in many places but the hike was pleasant nonetheless and no technical gear (besides sturdy boots) was necessary.

The first 2/3 of the hike goes through an old growth forest; in the lower parts there are plenty of enormous old cedars. Later the trail weaves between the forest and small charming meadows and finally enters the Goat Flats -- a flat grassy area with some tiny lakes and stunning views of the Three Fingers but also North Cascades and the Olympics! We had a beautifully clear view of Mt. Baker and a surreal view of other mountains with each subsequent range drawn in paler and paler blue until they would become just faint outlines against a mostly cloudless blue sky.

A meadow on the way to the Goat Flats[Snow is already melting on the meadows on the way to Goat Flats]

Some people continue on to the lookout point at one of the Three Fingers peaks. the trip requires a simple traverse of the Quest-Alb Glacier. Given slippery snow and lack of sufficient equipement (the glacier traverse looked somewhat steep in places so an ice axe would be an advisable safety precaution) we decided to just hike up the first of the few knolls towering over the Flats. From there we a very nice view of Big Bear and Liberty Mountains opened up before us.

This hike had some of the best views of all the hikes I've been on. Given the small (2000ft) elevation gain, this should be a great weekend destination once the snow melts.

Three Fingers and the Goat Flats[Three Fingers (left) and Goat Flasts (right)]

Big Bear Mountain[Big Bear Mountain as seen from the knoll just beyond Goat Flats]

Goat Flats[Goat Flats as seen from above]

Driving Directions:
Drive through the town of Granite Falls and take a left onto Mountain Loop Highway. Look at your odometer -- in about 7 miles after this turn, you will bear left onto a paved road. Contrary to what my hiking book says, the intersection is unmarked (all you see from the Highway are a couple of private lanes branching off). Right after you turn onto this road, you will see a sign announcing that you are on Road #41 to Tupso Pass. Very soon the pavement will end and the road will split: take the left fork. The road will split a couple more times but one of the branches will always be clearly more travelled by -- stick with the crowds. After about 11 miles you will pass the Meadow Trail trailhead. After a total of about 17 miles the road will widen a little and you will see the sign for the Goat Flats trail on left-hand side of the road.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hidden Lake Lookout (early season, snow)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 2.5 - 3 hours
Hiking distance (both ways): 9 miles (14.5km)
Elevation gain: 2,900ft (885m) to the pass + 300ft (100m) to the lookout
Green Trails Map: 48 and 80
Permit required for overnight camping but currently no pass is required to park at the trailhead

I was really looking forward to doing this hike for a long while now and I was too impatient to wait till mid-July, by which time all show should melt. I grabbed my ice axe, yaktrax and set out expecting some snow. I found lots.

The trail starts as a steep switchback through a forest. After about half an hour the trail left the trees and entered a snow-filled gully. From that moment on, the rest of the trip was on wet slippery snow. The trail apparently eventually crosses the gully and zig-zags along the opposite slope but I didn't notice that until I was ready to leave the gully and start the traverse.

Hidden Lake Lookout[The peak with the Hidden Lake Lookout as seen from the trail]

The traverse was somewhat frustrating in that I couldn't see how far I still had to go -- only at almost the very last minute, upon going over a rib, did my destination became visible: a sharp tall rock with a building on top (above).

Hidden Lake[Hidden Lake as seen from the pass by the Lookout]

Quite soon after spotting the Lookout, I got to the pass at its foot, from where I got a very nice view of the still frozen Hidden Lake (above).

Hidden Lake Lookout[The peak with the Hidden Lake Lookout as seen from the pass; here the East ridge (left) is covered in snow]

The Lookout was right above me (see the picture above). Large cornices had formed along the East ridge and given how soft the snow was, I didn't feel like scrambling to the top.

It took me 3 hours to get to the pass but only 1 hour and 10 minutes on the way down -- this time slippery snow was of some use. Glissading in the gully was fun but nothing compared to Mt. Adams.

Cascadian Farm
Driving Directions:
Take Rt. 20 to Marblemount (there is a ranger station there if you need to get a camping permit). From there take the Cascade River road -- I didn't see any conspicuous signs for it but it's hard to miss: if you are coming from the West, Rt. 20 will take a sharp left turn at some point in Marlbemount; instead of taking this turn, continue on the road straght that goes over a metal bridge. Continue along that road for nearly 10 miles until you see a steep turnout on the left (the first major dirt road on the left) and a sign pointing to the Hidden Lake Peaks trail. you need to take this steep narrow windy road for nearly 5 miles to the parking lot.

If you are returning West on Rt. 2, then after the hike stop at the Cascadian Farm stand (see the picture) half way between Marblemount and Rockport -- they have fruit, ice cream, espresso and lots of other tasty goodies. They also have benches and tables outside making it a perfect spot for post-hike relaxation!

This is one of Spring & Manning's "100 Classic Hikes in Washington":

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lake Serene

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: ~1.5 hours (depending on traffic)
Hiking distance (both ways): around 7.2 miles (11.5km)
Elevation gain: 2,000ft (610m)
Green Trails Map: 142
You need the NW Forest Pass to park at the trailhead

Lake Serene[Lake Serene]

This is a very nice early season hike: it is low enough to be totally snow-free while many of the upper hikes are still plagued with melting slush. Also, while the hike turns into a busy highway later in the season, at this time of the year the traffic is still manageable and you can get a spot at the Lunch Rock for great views of Lake Serene and Mt. Index ominously towering over the lake.

I'd rate the hike as easy to moderate; the first mile and a half follows an old road and it climbs up at a steady but rather gnetle angle. Then you come to the cross roads: you can go to the waterfalls (just half a mile) or continue towards Lake Serene (2 miles). The hike to the lake starts getting slightly more exciting after the split: first you cross Bridal Veils right under the waterfall (first over the bridge and then by boulder hopping). Very pleasant. Then the trail turns steep for a while as you follow a series of switchbacks. Higher up you cross a few meadows with nice views of the valley below and eventually you reach the lake! Make sure to follow the trail all the way to the Lunch Rock (you will know it when you've reached it) even though the initial views are quite nice. The lake is still partially frozen and there is plenty of snow on the slopes around. When we were there, the lake was perfectly still and the surrounding mountains reflected nearly perfectly in the water.

Bridal Veils Falls[Bridal Veils Falls]

You needn't be worried if you can make this hike: the two times I went there, I saw both young children and retired ladies making it to the top in pretty good spirit. It took us 2hrs on the way up and 1.5hrs on the way down. There is some mud on the trail so sturdy shoes (hiking boots, if possible) are a good idea.

Driving directions
This hike is accessible from Rt 2. Coming from Seattle, turn right immediately after the 35 mile post. Very quickly you will come to a large parking lot. The entire trip is along the Lake Serene Trail (#1068); see also driving directions and other information from the forest service.

P.S. A couple of years ago I wrote up directions to the trailhead and some other practical info at:

The following are very good books that cover the Lake Serene trail and other good hikes in the area:

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mt. Si (winter)

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: usually less than 1 hour
Hiking distance (both ways): around 8 miles (13km)
Elevation gain: 3,400ft (1,050m)
Green Trails Map: partially on 206
You need the NW Forest Pass to park at the trailhead

While this hike has a respectable elevation gain of 3,400ft, it starts rather low so in the winter it is much gentler than other seemingly easier hikes deeper in the mountains. Matt and I hiked Si in the middle of January of 2006 (this was a reasonably snowy winter, unlike the year before) and we did not encounter snow until about 2/3 of the way to the top. Because there was a fair amount of traffic on the trail, the snow was well packed -- it was nice on flatter stretches but on steeper parts the trail was sometimes icy and slippery. Hard rubber boots were helpful for getting decent traction (crampons would have been an overkill though Yaktrax might have been nice).

Clouds were low so we didn't get much of a view from the top (see the picture) but we did have peaceful and relaxing lunch on the snow-covered rocks.

Driving directions:
see my earlier post for more detailed practical info.


The following book is a great starting point for those who are too impatient to wait for the summer to start hiking: