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Mount Pilchuck Trail #700

Our Hiking Time: 4h 20m
Total Ascent: 2200ft
Highest Point: 5324ft
Total Distance: 5.2 miles
Location: N 48° 3.4740, W 121° 47.8680
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoThis week we topped off a month of Mountain Loop Highway destinations with a classic, Mt. Pilchuck. For years, readers have been telling us about the views from Mt. Pilchuck’s popular summit. Despite the deepening snow, the first sunny morning in weeks found us heading toward Mt. Pilchuck State Park.

In the summer, hikers flock to Pilchuck – with such stunning views at the end of a fairly short trail, it’s easy to see why. We had some company on our snowshoe to the top, but this was nothing compared the crowds you’ll navigate on a July weekend. mt pilchuck hikingwithmybrotherWe highly recommend trying this in the early winter, when the snow is clean and powdery, and the wind has sculpted the trees to look like something out of a children’s book. However, use caution in the winter months. The route is marked, but it occasionally skirts avalanche chutes, and the mountain has plenty of abrupt cliffs that can sneak up on the unwitting snowshoer. Snow also makes parking at the trailhead nearly impossible – simply go as far along Mt. Pilchuck Road as your vehicle can, and hike the remaining miles to the trailhead.

There's a lot more to Mount Pilchuck, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles, reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway (MLH). Follow the MLH for 12 miles to Mount Pilchuck Road, just over the bridge crossing the South Fork Stillaguamish River. Follow the forest road seven miles to the trailhead. - Nathan

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Mt. Pilchuck

Big Four Ice Caves Trail #723

Our Hiking Time: 3h
Total Ascent: 300ft
Highest Point: 2000ft
Total Distance: 2.5 miles (7.5 miles in winter)
Location: N 48° 3.1980, W 121° 31' 31.1760
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoOur Mountain Loop Highway tour continued this week with a trip out to the Big Four Ice Caves. For generations, the Caves have drawn crowds out to the Stillaguamish Valley, and we wanted to find out why. When downed trees and snow-covered roads stopped us short of the trailhead, we were undeterred; we happily hiked the extra miles through the falling snow to catch a glimpse of the Caves at the base of Big Four Mountain.

big four ice caves hikingwithmybrotherNamed for a “4” shaped snowfield on the east face of the mountain, Big Four Mountain rises abruptly from the landscape, creating steep-sided recesses that harbor permanent snowfields. When snowmelt flows down the mountain and under the snowfield each year, caves are craved out by the rushing water. While these caves look solid and stable, there is always a chance of avalanche or cave-in. Use caution around the Caves, and resist the temptation to explore interiors or climb the snowfield above them.

While the Caves are currently popular with hikers, back in the day the area was a resort destination. In 1921, Big Four Inn was opened by the Rucker brothers, owners of the railroad that pumped vast amounts of timber out of the valley to the expanding cities along the Puget Sound. Thousands of tourists were carted out to the inn by rail year-round for a weekend in the wilderness, enjoying staggering views of Big Four Mountain, playing a round of golf, or taking a short hike up to the Ice Caves. After a brief heyday, the resort fell on hard times with the removal of the rail line in 1936 to make way for the Mountain Loop Highway. It limped along until 1949 when it burned to the ground, and today, all that remains are the remnants of the inn’s chimney still standing in the Big Four picnic area.

big four ice caves hikingwithmybrotherDespite the demise of the resort, the Big Four Ice Caves Trail #723 still sees over 50,000 hikers a year. Comprised almost entirely of bridges, boardwalks, and staircases, the short trail is an easy walk, gaining less than 300ft in elevation. Such a mild route makes this trail ideal for everyone in the family or an introduction to snowshoeing. During the winter, the Mountain Loop Highway closes, and this hike begins at the Deer Creek Snow play area. This adds a few miles of easy, snowy road-walking. Our hike was made more difficult by a recent storm that toppled more than a few large trees, forcing a couple of significant detours. Until more snow falls to cover up these new obstacles, the trail will be a tricky snowshoe – you may need to step out of your snowshoes to navigate around some of the blow-downs.

To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles, you’ll reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway. Take the MLH for a little over 25 miles to the Big Four Picnic Area. – Nathan

Big Four Ice Caves

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Heather Lake Trail #701

Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 1000ft
Highest Point: 2400ft
Total Distance: 5 miles
Location: N 48° 4.0800, W 121° 46.9260
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoWe returned to the Mountain Loop Highway this week to tour Heather Lake, a multi-season hike that rivals Lake Twentytwo’s popularity. With the snow already falling as we drove out to the trailhead, we said goodbye to snow-free hikes for the next few months. Like Lake Twentytwo, we’d seen Heather Lake in warmer months, but wanted to get a feel for the winter experience. Mother Nature was happy to oblige.

heather lake hikingwithmybrotherHeather Lake Trail No. 701 meanders through a young forest born of the heavy logging practices back in the early 1900s. A mixture of hemlock and fir, all roughly the same age, surround cedar stumps several times their diameter, a quiet reminder of the forest that was. At roughly half a mile, the trail briefly connects with the remnants of an old 1940s logging road before shifting back to the more familiar rocky trailbed. As you continue to gain elevation, the uniformity of the second-growth is replaced by an older and wilder forest. A quarter-mile from the lakeshore the path smoothes out, and it’s an easy stroll alongside Heather Creek to the lake.

heather lake hikingwithmybrotherUntil the late 1990s, the trail simply ended at the lake. Today, thanks to the Forest Service and trail volunteers, the trail continues around the edge of the lake, complete with boardwalks over some of the marshier areas. The loop is just over a half-mile and allows for a closer look at the waterfalls streaming down the side of Mt. Pilchuck. It also adds a little extra distance for those wanting a longer hike. Although our trip was something of a whiteout, we know that Heather Lake and its surroundings can border on stunning. Tucked beneath looming cliffs, the lakeshore has plenty of room for a picnic, some fishing, or even a little camping.

Despite a few streams intersecting the trail, which might mean a little rock hopping, the Heather Lake Trail is fairly mild. The trail is so well graded that the 1000’ elevation gain is hardly noticeable, making this an excellent choice for young hikers. This is also a perfect hike for a quick and easy snowshoe expedition. Of course, an approachable hike to an attractive destination means that you should expect to share the trail along the way.heather lake hikingwithmybrother Push to the far side of the lake if you’re looking to minimize company.

To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles, you’ll reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway. Take the MLH for 13 to Mount Pilchuck Road (FR 42), turn right and drive two miles to the trailhead. - Nathan

Heather Lake

Lake Twentytwo Trail #702

Our Hiking Time: 4h
Total Ascent: 1350ft
Highest Point: 2450ft
Total Distance: 6.25 miles
Location: N 48° 3.8880, W 121° 45.9360
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoThis week we did the first of the many winter hikes we have planned along the Mountain Loop Highway. Although we've done some hikes along the MLH during the summer, snow-covered hikes in the area are new to us, so we decided to start with one of the most popular: Lake Twentytwo. Over 12,000 hikers a year make the trek up to the lake, many in the winter months. We packed up and headed out to join the ranks.

lake twentytwo hikingwithmybrotherLake Twentytwo is drained by Twentytwo Creek, which flows down the mountainside to the South Fork Stillaguamish. “Twentytwo” is such an odd name, it begged for some explanation. One explanation is that in the late 1800s all the land in Washington State was surveyed and categorized into a grid system that assigned every square mile a numerical designation called a township section. We’re still using this grid system today. The “township section” the creek runs through happens to be 22, which appears on USGS maps of the area. However, there is another school of thought that suggests this creek was the 22nd on the long-gone Everett and Monte Cristo Railway, and this gave rise to the name. The area was surveyed in 1895 and the railroad company was formed in 1892, making it likely that the earlier railroad number may have informed the survey.

The railroad helped logging companies pull timber out of the area even faster than usual. Lake Twentytwo was already a popular recreation area early in the 20th century, sporting a YMCA camp by the 1930s. In 1947 roughly 800 acres around the lake were designated a Research Natural Area (RNA), preserving it from logging interests. Today, because of RNA protections, old growth western red cedar and western hemlock tower over hikers as they switchback their way to the lakeshore.

lake twentytwo hikingwithmybrotherThe Lake Twentytwo Trail #702 begins slowly, wandering over streams through lush underbrush. Eventually the hike begins in earnest, becoming steeper and rockier. Most of the route follows Twentytwo Creek and more than a few impressive cascades. Use caution if you choose to follow a bootpath down to the creek to get a better view of a waterfall - they tend to be slick and unstable. Within the last ten years, the trail has been re-routed, extending some of the switchbacks to further ease the grade. Eventually, a talus field opens up the canopy for a view of the river valley below. Beyond the talus field, the trail plateaus in the final stretch to the lake.

Lake Twentytwo sits at the base of Mt. Pilchuck, fed by a half-dozen waterfalls cascading off the mountainside. In 2006, a trail around the trout-filled lake was completed, minimizing the impact of thousands of booted feet along the lakeshore. The area is prone to avalanches in late winter and early spring, so use caution during these times. Or, do what most folks do lake twentytwo hikingwithmybrotherand find a spot near the lake’s outlet to enjoy the view.

This trail is a pleasure to hike. An undisturbed forest surrounds the route, making it feel more wild than other nearby hikes. Although often crowded in the summer, the trail makes for a great winter hike. You’ll undoubtedly still have some company, but it’s much easier to find your own little slice of the outdoors at this time of year. Despite over a thousand feet of elevation gain, the trek is manageable for almost anyone, making it a good choice for families and new hikers. If you haven’t made it out to Lake Twentytwo, this is an excellent time to check it out!

To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway. Follow the MLH for 13 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road marked by a Forest Service sign reading "Lake 22 Trailhead." - Nathan

Lake Twentytwo

Hiking With My Brother Wins! - Backpacker Map Correspondent Contest

Jer's PhotoOur hard work this year has paid off big by winning the Backpacker Map Correspondent Contest! Between May 1st and November 1st this year we put together 46 trail maps, which racked us up 9 pieces of gear and the grand prize of a closet-full of Editors' Choice gear and a week-long trip to the Colorado Rocky Mountains with the Backpacker map editors!

We're already excited to fly out to Colorado next year to hang out with the best folks in the industry and to backpack through some of the most rugged terrain in the county. We're ready to learn everything we can to make hikingwithmybrother.com even better for you! Also, as you can imagine, some of the gear we've won is already being put to good use on the trail, and has replaced that old gear that we seem to wear out all too quickly. Big thanks to Backpacker for hosting this contest and for motivating us to hit the trail! -Jer

Grand Ridge Trail - High Point Trailhead

Our Hiking Time: 2h
Total Ascent: 900ft
Highest Point: 900ft
Total Distance: 5.25 miles
Location: N 47° 31.9140, W 121° 58.8540
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoThis week we stumbled onto Grand Ridge, a portion of the Issaquah Highlands new to us. We’ve spent countless hours on Tiger Mountain never suspecting almost 10 miles of trail were hidden on the other side of I-90. When the morning brought more rain, we decided it was a good day for a short hike and headed out to Grand Ridge to see what we’d been missing.

grand ridge hikingwithmybrotherGrand Ridge is perhaps most famous for the coal mine that operated on and off from the early 1900s through the 1950s. The last of Issaquah’s mines to close down, the Grand Ridge mine was filled in and developers soon began to stake out claims. Fortunately, King County was able to work out a deal in the 1990s that set aside four acres of land for every one acre developed. This 4:1 plan eventually yielded 1,400 acres that became the home of the Grand Ridge Trail System, built largely by the Washington Trail Association.

We started from the High Point Parking Area and followed the access road out to the High Point Trailhead, marked by a small trail map of Grand Ridge. Heading up from here will connect you to the short Coal Mine Loop that covers the lower section of Grand Ridge, and provides access to most of the trailheads in the area. Anyone who has spent time hiking around the Issaquah grand ridge hikingwithmybrotherAlps will feel right at home wandering through salal and sword fern. Although we chose not to head to the 1,422’ summit, it is accessible via an unmarked trail, which isn’t on King County’s map. Simply follow the Grand Ridge Trail toward the Mitchell Hill Connector Forest. Although there are no signs, this side trail is well-worn and should be obvious. If you hit the first log bridge, you’ve gone too far.

Grand Ridge is a great little alternative to the often-crowded Tiger Mountain. The surrounding forest is identical, though development occasionally intrudes into the forest scene. Like Tiger, the din of I-90 is almost inescapable, but it is nice to enjoy the mixed forest of maple and cedar without a lot of company. Check out Grand Ridge when you’re short on time and just want to take a walk in the woods without too much hassle.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 20, and turn left at bottom of ramp. Pass underneath I-90 and find a gravel lot on the left just past the on-ramp. Park and follow the Issaquah–Preston rail trail to the trailhead. -Nathan

Grand Ridge - Highpoint Trailhead

Mt. Kent via McClellan Butte Trail #1015

Our Hiking Time: 5h 30m
Total Ascent: 2800ft
Highest Point: 5087ft
Total Distance: 7 miles
Location: N 47° 23' 23.4240, W 121° 37.0620
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoWe were going over our maps looking for potential hikes when we turned up a route to the top of the Mt. Kent. Digging deeper, we found that very few hikers had made the trek to Mt. Kent’s often-overlooked summit. Sensing a challenge, we picked out our route and set out for the trail the following weekend.

Living in the shadow of McClellan Butte, Mt. Kent has never drawn a crowd. The first recorded ascent was April 10, 1938 by a group of Mountaineers, probably looking for something a little different after duke duchess of kent hikingwithmybrotherclimbing McClellan Butte dozens of times. Unfortunately, little else is written about this lonely peak. We’d welcome any local lore anyone has to share.

A little over half the route to Mt. Kent follows the McClellan Butte Trail #1015. This section is easy to follow and, while a bit challenging, does not pose any real difficulty. However, once you leave the McClellan Trail, route-finding and bushwhacking are the name of the game.

The fun begins just as the McClellan Trail plateaus and starts to lead you around the back of the mountain. Your first glimpses of Chester Morse Lake signal your imminent departure from maintained trails. A short push through the trees leads to a large talus field. Follow the ridgeline connecting McClellan Butte and Mt. Kent. Below you may see a forest road; however, this road is located within the Cedar River Watershed and is closed to public access.

mtkent hikingwithmybrotherClimb down the talus field and stay on the east side of a large ridge as you head toward Alice Lakes. From the Alice Lakes basin, find the path of least resistance up through talus fields, patches of mountain blueberry, and the occasional hemlock sapling. Climbing out of the cirque encompassing Alice Lakes is tough. A few sections are steep enough to properly be called a scramble – you’ll probably be forced to use your hands a few times on the way up.

Emerging from the trees to the summit reveals a decent view of McClellan Butte and the Duke and Duchess flanking the Alice Creek Basin. On a good day, Mt. Rainier will rise proudly over Chester Morse Lake . . . of course, we didn’t get to see any of that. Low clouds heavy with rain made it impossible to see anything at all. So we settled down for a soggy lunch and signed the summit register.

Despite the rain, this was an enjoyable hike that we’d recommend to those that like a challenge. Be prepared to do some stomping through vegetation and to use your route-finding skills. Because footpaths are faint at best, often disappearing into themt kent alice lakes hikingwithmybrother underbrush, a GPS will make this hike more manageable. Alice Lakes feel secluded and remote, and we never encountered another soul once we left the McClellan Trail. All in all, a nice little escape.

A number of sources warn of the high avalanche risks on both McClellan Butte and Mt. Kent. The talus slope above Alice Lakes is extremely steep and avalanche prone. Use caution when hiking these areas.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 38, then take a right and head past Olallie State Park and the access to Deception Crags for about two miles to reach FR 9020. Follow the progressively rougher logging road to the roadblock at 4.5 miles. -Nathan

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Mt. Kent

Anniversary Post: Celebrating Two Years

Nathan's PhotoIt’s hard to believe it was just two years ago that hikingwithmybrother.com was launched. What began as two brothers tracking their hikes has slowly morphed into something of an online hiking guide for local hikers. We’re happy that so many hikers have been able to use the information they find on hikingwithmybrother.com to plan their trips.

We’ve been a lot of places over the last 12 months. We’ve tromped through a great deal the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. We broke out of the I-90 corridor and explored the North Fork Snoqualmie River and several hikes on Highway 2. We’ve been to the top of lofty peaks, at the shores of alpine lakes, and have slogged down trails more stream than earth and done far more than our fair share of bushwhacking--all to bring you back the most up-to-date route descriptions and trail conditions.

Although this second year found us on trails that led to more adventure and more secluded destinations, it was really defined by a single overarching theme: rain. Much more than our first year, the rainy season began early and stayed late. Snow lingered until late June, and it seemed that almost every hike forced us to break out the rain gear. It was a tough year for hiking.

Beyond the rain and the adventure, perhaps our most exciting development this year was the launch of the hikingwithmybrother app. If you haven’t downloaded this yet, take a minute to check it out – the scaled down version of the blog lets you find a nearby hike with a tap of a screen. It’s a great resource when hiking plans need to change at the last minute.

We’re looking forward to our next year, and we’ve got some great hikes planned. You’ll see us up in the Mountain Loop Highway, spending trail miles on Highway 2, and exploring remote sections of the popular Mt. Si Natural Resource Conservation Area and the West Tiger Mountain Natural Resource Conservation Area. We also have some big trips planned, like a summit of Mt. Adams and a multi-night tour of the Enchantments.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our first two years. We hope you’ll stick with us for the many good hikes to come. Thanks for your support, and we’ll see you on the trail.

-Nathan & Jer

Goldmyer Hot Springs via Middle Fork Trail #1003

Our Hiking Time: 10h
Total Ascent: 2000ft (1000ft out)
Highest Point: 2100ft
Total Distance: 22 miles
Location: N 47° 28.9320, W 121° 23.0520
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoWe’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley the past few years. We’ve climbed mountains, followed creeks to spectacular waterfalls, and explored hidden lakes. But, despite hearing a lot about it, we had not yet made it out to one of the valley’s signature destinations: Goldmyer Hot Springs. As autumn continues to bring cooler temperatures, we set out on a short overnight to see the springs before winter set in.

goldmyer hot springs hikingwithmybrotherGoldmyer Hot Springs is named for William Goldmyer, who purchased the land around the hot springs and built a lodge for local lumberjacks and miners around 1900. The lodge eventually became something of a resort, and the hot springs were expanded. Back around the turn of the 20th century, mineral springs were big business as people sought them out for their restorative properties. The resort operated for many years, supported by a railroad that made access much easier than it is today, as well as emerging hydroelectric technology that powered the encampment. Eventually the resort closed, the land changed hands, and the hot springs went into decline until the ‘80s when a nonprofit group bought the land and began a program of resident caretakers that continues to this day.

Currently, because of a road closure, access to Goldmyer is a 10 mile riverside stroll following the Middle Fork Trail #1003. This trail is extremely well maintained. The effort that trail volunteers put into it is readily apparent in the extensive network of bridges and boardwalks. Although goldmyer hot springs hikingwithmybrotherthere are a few ups and downs, for the most part the trail generally follows the remnants of old logging roads and is fairly gentle. Wander under alders, hemlocks, and big leaf maples, and take advantage of breaks in the canopy to see Mt. Garfield, the granite cliffs of Stegosaurus Butte, and Mt. Thompson. Cross roaring creeks, tumbling cascades, and the occasional wash-out before reaching Goldmyer and a well-earned soak.

There are two approaches to the hot springs. Both follow the Middle Fork Trail for 6 miles to the Dingford Creek Bridge. At this point, you can continue on the Middle Fork Trail for another 4 miles to Burntboot Creek and a log crossing to the Goldmyer property. Alternatively, you can cross the bridge and follow the Dingford Creek Road 4 miles to Goldmyer. The forest road is not as enjoyable as the trail, but a couple unbridged creeks can be difficult to cross when waters run high during the spring thaw or heavy rains.

The hot springs themselves are fairly small. Probably no more than 10 people can fit in the various pools at any one time. Perhaps for this reason, Goldmyer limits camping to 20 people a day and groups to no more than 12. Although a reservation is not strictly necessary, it will guarantee you a campsite during the busy summer season. Check out goldmyer.org for more details.

This is a great hike for beginning backpackers. The ease of the trail goldmyer hot springs hikingwithmybrotherand the comfortable destination (the tent sites are well groomed, the nearby river makes for easy access to water, and an enclosed outhouse borders on luxury) make it easy to convince the skeptics that backpacking is a lot of fun. Moreover, the Middle Fork Trail is really a pleasant journey that takes you though some of the best portions of the valley. The Middle Fork Trail route also allows for some interesting side trips for those looking for a little extra. At the 5-mile mark, you reach Cripple Creek and a mile-long scramble up to Tin Cup Joe Falls. At just over 8 miles, the trail intersects with the Rock Creek Trail #1013.1, which leads out to Snow Lake and Snoqualmie Pass.

To get there, take Exit 34 off I-90 and take a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half-mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. Continue to follow the twists in the road until the pavement runs out. Continue on FR 56 for 11 miles, to the Middle Fork Trailhead parking lot. The trailhead and Gateway Bridge are at the north end of the lot. - Nathan

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Goldmyer Hot Springs

Denny Mountain Trail - Alpental Ski Resort

Our Hiking Time: 6h 30m
Total Ascent: 2500ft
Highest Point: 5608ft
Total Distance: 4.5 miles
Location: N 47° 26.3400, W 121° 26.6400
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoAt some point, after doing a number of hikes nearby, we decided that we’d looked at Denny Mountain’s mile-long ridgeline enough times to warrant an excursion to the top. Despite some cloudy weather, we headed out to Alpental to tackle the steep slopes and check out the summit before the ski season set in and closed the mountain to hiking.

denny mountain hikingwithmybrotherThere is some argument over which member of early Seattle’s Denny family the mountain was named after. Most assume everything “Denny” is named after Arthur Denny, though his brother David spent considerable time in Snoqualmie Pass staking mining claims. Whichever Denny it was, since 1968 most people know the mountain slopes as the Alpental Ski Area. Famous for very steep and very challenging runs, Alpental was a destination for wintertime thrill-seekers from the moment it opened.

Unsurprisingly, Denny Mountain is much less famous for hiking. Equally unsurprising, there is no real trail to the top of Denny Mountain. Occasionally a trail will be hacked through a particularly dense patch of huckleberry, but mostly the uphill trudge is an exercise in finding the path of least resistance. Ski slopes are less friendly when the snows disappear. Rocks and shrubs cover the mountainside, and resorts tend to leave things wherever they happen to fall, knowing that snows will obscure old boards, pieces of concrete and derelict construction equipment. The evidence of decades of skiing make most of the lower mountain less pleasant to hike through.

denny mountain hikingwithmybrotherWe followed the Armstrong Express chairlift up through the clouds to the base of the upper mountain. Although mostly successful with route finding, we still found ourselves neck-deep in bramble or backsliding on a loose patch of scree. While challenging, the first half of the hike is manageable without too much trouble. The upper mountain is an entirely different story. Be prepared for an all out bushwhack up gullies and small cliffs. Small hemlocks and huckleberries served as much needed handholds as we slowly worked our way up the mountainside. Thankfully, a few short plateaus give some relief from the slog.

Attaining the true summit can be slightly tricky, as it requires wiggling through narrow opening between the rocks. Once through enjoy the views of Snoqualmie Mountain and Guye Peak. And, if you’re lucky enough to make the climb on a less cloudy day, your 5,522’ perch should provide some excellent views of the Snoqualmie Valley and Mt. Rainier. Ignore the weather instrumentation and savor the rewards of a difficult hike.

This hike is probably better done in snowshoes, as the snow will smooth out most of the rougher aspects of the hike. If, like us, you enjoy the adventure and extra challenge, Denny Mountain certainly has more denny mountain hikingwithmybrotherthan enough of both to satisfy most hikers. Aside from those gluttons of punishment however, Denny Mountain is a difficult hike to recommend to anyone else. Somewhere on the slopes of the upper mountain the amount of effort the hike demands surpasses the reward. If you’re looking for a rigorous hike and some views, Snoqualmie Mountain is a much better choice.

To get there, take I-90 to exit 52. From the exit, take a left onto Alpental Road for about two miles to a large gravel parking lot. The unmarked trailhead is across the road to the left. -Nathan

Denny Mountain

Iron Horse Trail - John Wayne Pioneer Trail

Our Hiking Time: 3h 30m (biking)
Total Ascent: 450ft
Highest Point: 2400ft
Total Distance: 18 miles
Location: N 47° 23.5620, W 121° 28.4400
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoSnaking along mountainsides from North Bend to Snoqualmie Pass and beyond, our hikes often involve treading on some portion of Iron Horse State Park. Sometimes referred to as the “backbone” of the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, the 21 miles of the Park that lie between Hyak and the Cedar Falls Trailhead at Rattlesnake Mountain are quite popular, seeing thousands of hikers and bikers a year. We decided it was time to tour this portion of the Park. Because we’d already hiked sections of it, we opted to bike and experience the trail a little differently.

iron horse trail hikingwithmybrotherThe 110-mile long Iron Horse State Park follows the railbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. The park is the developed portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which continues out to the Idaho border. The Milwaukee Railroad went bankrupt in 1977, and Washington State slowly acquired the land. By the mid-1980s the process of converting the railroad to a multi-use trail had begun.

One of the most popular attractions over the years has been the Snoqualmie Tunnel, often referred to as Tunnel 50.  The two-mile tunnel was bored between 1912 and 1914 by 700 men working from either side and meeting in the middle. After its conversion to a park, the tunnel made for a spooky addition to a hike or ride – dark enough to require a flashlight to navigate, and complete with dripping water, echoing conversations, and the chill of being underground.

Unfortunately, there is no real detour around the tunnel closure, so we had to improvise. We parked at the Annette Lake Trailhead and pushed our bikes two-thirds of a mile to the Iron iron horse trail hikingwithmybrotherHorse Trail. Once we got going the ride was a breeze, passing old snow sheds and depots and going over trestles, the relics of the Milwaukee Railroad that add flavor to the flat trail. Although it’s impossible to escape the dull roar of I-90, dozens of creeks and streams offer nice stopping points to trade the noise for the sound of rushing water. A number of campsites also dot the trail, offering a few comfortable places for the long distance hiker or biker to bed down for the night.

Iron Horse State Park is a great way for anyone to experience the Snoqualmie Valley. Whether hiking, biking, jogging or just passing through on your way to another destination, it has something to offer everyone. The wide path also makes this a great way for a larger group to do an activity together and avoid walking single file down the trail. The compact gravel means that the park is stroller and wheelchair friendly.

To get there, take I-90 to exit #32 and turn right, following Cedar Falls Road three and a half miles to the trailhead. Alternatively, when the tunnel reopens, take exit #54 and turn right to Highway 906, also known as Road 2219. Take a left for a half-mile following the signs to Iron Horse State Park. -Nathan

Iron Horse Trail

Duke, Duchess, and Earls of Kent

Our Hiking Time: 3h
Total Ascent: 700ft
Highest Point: 3000ft
Total Distance: 2.5 miles
Location: N 47° 23.6520, W 121° 36.3300
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoThis week we decided to go a little off the beaten path and explore a set of crags known as the Duke, Duchess, and Earls of Kent. Situated on the opposite side of the Alice Creek Valley from Mt. Kent, the lonely cliffs get few visitors. After a little research, the approach seemed relatively straightforward, so we packed up and headed out I-90 toward Mt. Gardner hoping for better experience than the last time we were there. No such luck.

The route to the base of the crags is entirely along forest roads, duke of kent hikingwithmybrotherbeginning at the roadblock just before the Alice Creek washout along FR 9020. As we started down the path, we noticed the washout had been repaired, and wondered at the large tire marks as we progressed up the relatively steep forest road. About a half-mile into our journey, the road abruptly ended. It was clear this was where all the machinery we’d seen indications of had been working. Huge holes had were scooped out of the road and brush and fallen logs were scattered across the roadbed.

We’d seen treatment similar to this before – churning up a few dozen feet of road to prevent motorized access – so we pressed on, anticipating the road to quickly reappear. It never did. For the next mile or so we slogged through rock-filled soft earth, clinging underbrush, and rain-soaked debris. Every last inch of the former road and been obliterated. By the time we got to the base of the crags, we looked up into the fog and decided we’d had enough of the soggy day and headed back to the car.

Did we mention it was raining? Of course it was.

It’s pretty rare that we find ourselves on a really bad hike. Sometimes the trail is overgrown, sometimes the weather is awful or sometimes our information is bad and we hike in the wrong duke of kent hikingwithmybrotherdirection. But this hike presented us with a first: never before have we unexpectedly found the route to our destination utterly demolished. We hunted around online for details on the project, but came up empty. One has to wonder why so much effort was put into breaking up the road, when typically they are left to slowly fade away. Or why money was spent on this project and not some other much needed forest road maintenance.

The lesson here is that even if you do your research, it’s possible to get out on the trail and find that conditions have drastically changed. Had the weather been better, we probably would have scrambled up the talus fields to check out the views, but the rain and fog made us stop for the day before we discovered any more unpleasant surprises.

We don’t recommend this hike for anyone, but if for some reason you’d like to go there, take I-90 to Exit 38. Then take a right and head past Olallie State Park and the access to Deception Crags for about two miles to reach FR 9020. Follow the progressively rougher logging road to the roadblock at 4.5 miles. - Nathan

Duke of Kent

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...then, tap the blue arrow on the Hike Map and review the Trip Report for the hike. Or, tap "Blog" at the bottom of the screen to check out a list of trip reports just like the RSS feed. Browsing photos from the hikes is easy too! Tap on "Photos", to pull up a list of Photo Galleries...

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...tap the Gallery that you want to see and the photos of the hike will be pulled up as a grid of thumbnails that you can easily browse. To see all the features that our iPhone App has to offer, go to the apple iPhone App store, or click on the Hiking With My Brother iPhone App icon below. -Jer

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