I was expecting some rough weather when on the way to these mountains, I was dodging branches falling from the sky. These peaks are Southwest of the City of Elbe. They would be quick, easy, unexciting mountains to summit in the summer but I wanted to try a winter route to the top. Take Hwy 7 South of Elbe a few miles, and then take a right on Pleasant Valley Rd. In about 3.5 miles, enter DNR land on FR 74. If gated, start from this point. If not, continue less than a half-mile to a gated dirt road to the left and park here. Hike or bike the road 1.5 miles, taking a right at a fork just past the starting point. The road travels through some old second growth, past several drainages with waterfalls. Keeping an eye on my map, I stepped off the road to travel West up the East Ridge of Stahl Mountain. If the road starts to drop in elevation, you have gone too far. Turn around and you will see the wooded ridge you should be traveling up. The ridge itself was easy to climb. No brush. The ridge was really getting hard by the windstorm but I did not hear any trees fall. Around 3000 feet, the route opened up into a Hemlock old-growth forest. This is also where the snow began to be about 2-3 inches. Two hours after leaving the car, I was on my final few feet to the summit. I found an old trail leading the last 200 feet to the high point. I was surprised to find that this peak was an old lookout. Three of the four anchor bars were still in the ground. If it had been a nice day, there would have been a view in one direction. Not wanting to stop, I continued my trek south, down the ridge toward the saddle between Stahl and Ladd Mountain. At the saddle, I ran into a road with fresh jeep tracks. This area was harvested so I got several views down to Elbe and Pleasant Valley. To get to Ladd, I continued my ridge walking southeast toward Ladd’s long North Ridge. This Ridge was interesting because on the right of the ridge is USFS old-growth, the left was a replanted area of maybe 8 years. Soon the ridge was back to all old-growth. Near the summit I was surprised to break out of the trees to a logging road. A new road not on my map traverses the entire summit ridge of Ladd. At this point, I followed the road up to the highest point where I took a picture of the clouds. I almost needed to put on my snowshoes but did not. There would be excellent views from Ladd if the weather were good. To get back, I retraced my steps back to 3200 feet on the Ridge up Ladd Mountain. I dropped straight down to the road at 2600 feet. This was the same road as my approach, a long road walk back to my truck. I really enjoyed this trip even if it rained on me all day. Most of the route was brush free on forested ridges. Total mileage about 7.5 miles. 4-5 hours.

Stahl Mountain Lookout Site

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Lookout elevation: 3,716 feet
Elevation gain: 2,700+ feet
Distance: 3 miles or so
Access: Paved roads to gate
Built in 1933 this L-4 cab has very little written history but the 1934 panoramic photos show what looks like a weather gage, some guy lines and images taken 15 feet above ground. Based on all the original timber around the lookout, there was no road, just trail to access. It was gone by 1956. The Forest Service access in this area is difficult to keep up to date. As of 2015, roads were washed out and overgrowing in the area. Starting at the low gate near Alder Lake is the only sure bet.

Washington Fire Lookouts

Former Lookouts
View Southwest 7-26-1934
View Southeast 7-26-1934
View North 7-26-1934
Nisqually Highpoints
February 1934: Did you ever see a telephone line, sliding? Foreman McCray and CCC crew completed Stahl Mountain telephone line January 15. Good work boys! Incidentally, the boys experienced many handicaps while working this job. For instance - upon returning from lunch one day, they discovered that during their absence, a slide had carried away about 1/4 mile of their telephone line as well as the trail. McCray has had dreams like this, so a couple of the boys had to pinch him hard to convince him that the line had really gone for a one-way ride. H.E. Peters" (Six Twenty-Six)
Interesting story found by Ron Kemnow:
My Trip Report from Signpost Magazine in 2002
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1962 Metsker Map
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1945 Forest Service Map
(I placed both Stahl Mtn. and Pleasant Valley Lookouts on the map)
mount stahl
Photo by Irene Potter in 2001
Map showing my route taken in 2002 up Stahl Mountain and Ladd Mountain
For reference, the map also shows Quiemuth Peak the Thurston County Highpoint
Roads beyond the gate in 2015 were washed out and overgrowing
Roads from south of Ladd Mountain could have access of the FR 74 Road
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Summit of Stahl Mountain
Photo by Irene Potter in 2001
(Shows the Pleasant Valley Lookout down below & trail to Stahl, but no label for Stahl Mtn.)