Outdoor and Travel Adventures
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As one of the highest mountains on the far east side of the Cascades, save this one when the west side is getting hammered with rain. Wedge Mountain has a commanding view sitting between the Enchantment Lakes area and the vast expanse out over eastern Washington. Over the years, two main routes have developed. The one described below has an excellent trail with a trailhead quite high on the mountain. Unfortunately, getting there the road is rather rough and narrow so bring a trusty vehicle.
This high point on Nason Ridge with 1,150 feet of prominence has a lookout building called Alpine Lookout. Over time, the mountain is discussed more in terms of the name of the lookout than Nason Ridge. Probably because Nason Ridge continues west with higher points like Mount Mastiff, Mount Howard and Rock Mountain. To add more names, the trail is called the Round Mountain Trail, named after a small summit the trail traverses while in route to the lookout site. This lookout site dates back to 1920 when it was uses for spotting fire, and the first building placed in 1936. The current structure was built in 1976, still staffed during summer months and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
As drivers cross Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway, Silver Star Mountain lies to the east with ridges extending north and south full of towering rock spires. Amazingly, this rugged peak can be climbed without too much technical knowhow. Silver Star Mountain is #24 of Washington's highest peaks. There are two summits, with the highest summit being the east peak, just slightly higher than the west peak. This route utilizes the Silver Star Glacier, the largest in the Cascades at such a eastern longitude.
You can count on one hand the number of summits over 5,000 feet that can be driven up in Western Washington. One such high point is Burley Mountain, situated between Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. On the summit is a Forest Service lookout cabin that is usually open in summer, with a woodstove, a couple of single beds, a sink without water, and a couple of chairs to sit on. Small signs above the windows tell you what mountains you are viewing. Outside the lookout is a picnic table and a cinder-block vault toilet. A night inside is fun for kids and adults. In winter, the lookout is rented to skiers and snowshoers.
The Mount Townsend trail can be a highway of hikers, most of whom are new to hiking. For those with a bit more experience, the trail to Silver Lake soon becomes appealing. It requires nearly hiking up Townsend, but then dropping 600 feet to reach. If Silver Lake seems tame, consider the next level of adventure off the Townsend Trail. A trip up Welch Peaks and Hawk Peak is the climax of the region and offers the best way to explore this corner of the Olympic Mountains. It is done as a loop trip from the Townsend Saddle.
4 More State Highpoints
Chicago can be a great city to visit for a few days. No other place in the United States has this kind of beach waterfront adjacent to a metropolis. Residents and visitors are endulged with all the city amenities, yet can walk a few blocks to the beach. Chicago has a bad reputation but the city core and waterfront was the cleanest and safest of any city I have ever visited. Numerous large parks are located along the shoreline including bike and running trails that go for miles in each direction.
After visiting Chicago, a 1,500 mile road trip was in order to visit the Great Lakes state highpoints.
This section of the Interurban trail runs along a hidden wooded forest on the line between the city of Milton and the southern line of Federal Way. Much of the route is along the East Fork of Hylebos Creek, a glimpse of how this area was once densely forested. This section ends (for now) at the edge of Fife at 70th Avenue E (at the I-5 Fife Curve). Future connections will connect it to the Foothills Trail in Puyallup. But the future DOT Fife curve interchange that will connect Hwy 167 to I-5 will have to be built first.
Spend any time hiking around the Mountain Loop Highway and you know that White Chuck Mountain has a dominating appearance and location. It has nearly 3800 feet of prominence and ranks as the 25th most prominent peak in Washington State. The solitary mountain is also surprisingly easy, yet potentially dangerous. The climb can be easly done in a half day, in just four or five hours or less. But caution, do not climb when wet do to the slab section.
The possibilities for where to go on a honeymoon are endless. But I am asked by many who need to keep the cost low and stay close to home, where to go. In an attempt to help them out and have a good reference to send them to, these are my top 20 suggestions.
One of Washington's easiest to reach lookout buildings is High Rock Lookout, located just south of Mount Rainier National Park. The short 1.6 mile hike attracts the novice and experienced hikers because the views are superb and there is a lookout. High Rock is also a prominence peak at #45 in Washington with over 3,000 feet of it. Notice at the trailhead parking you can look in the distance to see the destination, such a rare thing in Washington.
Winchester Mountain is one of the best hikes in the state with spectacular views from start to finish. Even before the hike starts, the trailhead and alpine primitive car camping location at Twin Lakes should be explored. Twin Lakes at an elevation of 5,200 feet are set in a alpine cirque bowl beneath Winchester and Bear Mountains, surrounded by meadows and subalpine trees. Mount Baker mirrored in the lake as the trail starts to ascend meadows to a historic lookout on the summit, with up close views of Shuksan, Tomyhoi, Larrabee, and American Border Peak.
Surprise and Glacier are two lakes at the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that make for a popular destination for overnight trips. The first lake is Surprise, ringed by green trees, shallow waters, and granite boulders. Glacier Lake is a bit further but is much larger, deeper and has the cliffs hanging above in all directions.
Popular with beginners and fishermen, the Greenwater Lakes Trail is a relatively easy valley trail through some spectacular old-growth forest, with lakes as destinations. The first lakes are the Greenwater Lakes, just 2 easy miles up the trail, surrounded by many campsites. But for some extra effort, the hike continues a bit further to a trail split. Left to Echo Lake, right to Lost Lake. This report covers Lost Lake, a tree-ringed body of water trapped like a bathtub, its outlet is underground!
These three mountains are three of the four peaks that encircle Glacier and Surprise Lake. All three are possible during one trip to the area. All three peaks offer views, each with similar perspectives but each peeks at different lakes far below.
The only reason people climb Mount Kent is because it is along the I-90 corridor and has an official name. Even then, the register shows just a hand full of people each summer bravely reach the summit and sign. The main route utilizes the McClellan Butte Trail, so why would anyone leave the trail to go up a lesser, semi forested summit? To check it off the list of course.
The top mountain to hike in the SW corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is Silver Star Mountain. These mountains are the far west of the Cascade Range, at the edge of the urban areas of Vancouver and Portland. The highest peaks are relatively low in elevation but due to the 1902 Yacolt Burn, the most destructive fire in modern state history, the area never recovered, and has burned additional times. This means meadows and big views!
On a high ridge line over the Entiat River Valley is Tyee Mountain Lookout. A rough, deteriorating 4WD road climbs to the 6,600 foot summit, where the lookout gets a fair amount of visitors. The lookout was constructed during 1931, replaced in the 1950s, and barely survived during the summer of 1994 when the lookout nearly burned in the Tyee Creek Fire.
More Former Lookouts
Chasing the quest to visit all 700+ former lookouts in Washington
If you are like me, driving in traffic through Sultan and Startup is torture. My eyes always start wandering off the road to a certain knob which tempts the mind...climb me, come climb me. The isolated knob I refer to is Highwire Ridge, a 600+ prominent uplift just north of the highway. For those not into dumpster hiking, recently the summit was harvested offering sweeping views across the Puget Sound lowlands. Take the family, it's a nice hike, with two viewpoint options.
Come mid-July through mid-October, you should consider finding a trail that has a high access road. Because snow sticks around for so long in Western Washington, these places are easily accessible for just a few short months. This is a list of the 15 locations on or west of the Cascade Crest. Elevations are approximate. Of course, there are many roads that reach the 4,000 foot level that access amazing places too, but this list has just those above 5,000 feet.
This trail starts at the end of the Suiattle River Road, which just re-opened in Fall of 2014 after years of closure due to washouts. This trail climbs 4,600 relentless feet, all in the trees, to a small meadow ridge, the site of a former lookout. I have read trip reports about this trail for 20 years saying....don't do it! But, if you can muster some strength and continue to the real summit of Sulphur, all your efforts will be worth it.