Total Ascent: 2300ft
Highest Point: 5800ft
Total Distance: 3.2 miles
Location: N 47° 31.299, W 123° 15.641
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
The Mt. Ellinor Trail is easily one of the most popular hikes on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula and with sweeping vistas filled with mountaintops and endless stretches of water, it’s no wonder hikers flock to the summit. While we’d seen the mountain on our climb up Mt. Rose, we decided it was time we experienced the well-trodden trail ourselves.
Between 1853-57 a geographer named George Davidson was working on the Coast Survey, a mapping of project that included triangulating the heights and precise location of geographical features on the West Coast, including Washington and the Puget Sound. In 1856, Davidson was commanding the survey brig R.H. Fauntleroy, named for another prominent surveyor and Davidson’s mentor, Robert Henry Fauntleroy. Davidson’s triangulation work required him to name a number of prominent mountains in the area including Mt. Ellinor, Mt. Constance, and The Brothers. They were all named for members of the Fauntleroy family. Mt. Ellinor was named in honor of Fauntleroy’s daughter Ellinor, who would later marry Davidson. Mt. Constance was named in honor of Fauntleroy’s other daughter, while The Brothers were named for Fauntleroy's sons, Arthur and Edward. The first recorded climb of Mt. Ellinor was in 1879 when Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Waughop, D.N. Utler, and H.C. Esteps found their way to the top. Since that time, thousands of hikers have followed in their footsteps, braving steep slopes to take in Ellinor’s fabled views.
The Mt. Ellinor Trail #812 begins from one of two trailheads. The lower trailhead adds 1.7 miles and about 1,300 feet to the hike, which makes the upper trailhead the far more popular choice. The upper trail begins at the end of FR 2419-014 and immediately begins to climb. The trail’s popularity means a steady march of boots have keep the trail free of rocks and roots. At the same time, steps and rails have been built into trail to minimize erosion and help smooth out the climb. Pass the junction with the lower trailhead at .3 miles before tackling a series of steep switchbacks. After about a mile of hard climbing, the trail leaves the trees and continues over talus fields and across exposed mountainsides. Before long, the trail crests a ridge and begins a short set of switchbacks that quickly deliver you to the nearly 6,000ft summit.
The sweeping views from the top are nothing short of captivating. Mt. Ellinor’s closest neighbor, Mt. Washington, is to the north with The Brothers in the distance just to the right. As you turn west to look into the Mount Skykomish Wilderness, you can pick out Mt. Pershing looming over Brown’s Hike Lake, then Mt. Stone, Mt. Skykomish and Mt. Cruiser. Copper Mountain is almost directly to the west and as you turn south you can pick out Lightening Peak just behind Ellinor’s other neighbor, Mt. Rose. Lake Cushman lies to the south, and as you turn to the east the Puget Sound is spread out before you. On clear days you can pick out Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier rising above Seattle and Tacoma. Settle in and see how much more you can pick out of these vast horizons.
Mt. Ellinor is a classic hike, one that is more than worthy of being on everyone’s bucket list. While the hike’s popularity and difficulty often draw comparisons to Mt. Si, you will find far fewer people and far better rewards along the Mt. Ellinor Trail. Still, we recommend trying to find a weekday to give this one a try, as it will make your climb a little more peaceful. At the same time, the trail is well maintained and easy to navigate which means that despite a healthy amount of elevation gain, most hikers will be able to make it to the top.
To get there, take I-5 south to Olympia to Exit 104 toward Aberdeen and Port Angeles. Follow US 101 along Hood Canal just over 35 miles through Shelton to Hoodsport. Turn left onto Lake Cushman Road/State Route 119 and follow for 9.2 miles to a T-intersection. Take a right and follow 1.6 miles to FR #2419. Take a left and follow #2419 for 5.3 miles to the signed lower trailhead. The more popular upper trailhead is reached by continuing another mile to #2419-014. Head left onto the 014 spur and continue 3 miles to the end of the road and trailhead. -Nathan
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