Total Ascent: 1100ft
Highest Point: 1576ft
Total Distance: 4 miles
Location: N 47° 29.9220, W 121° 45.3780
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Hiking in the winter always has a few unexpected hiccups. Despite having made sure to review closures on the Department of Transportation site, and despite having reviewed avalanche warnings, weather, and local conditions, we still ran into a surprise on our way to our selected hike. The narrow forest road we were on was entirely blocked by construction crews clearing debris, forcing us to throw it into reverse for a full mile. This left us without much of a plan so we decided to make the best of it and visit an old friend, Little Si.
Little Si crouches in the shadow of Mount Si’s western slopes, both edifices named in honor of Josiah "Uncle Si" Merritt, who set up a cabin at the base of Si in 1862. Until 1985, when Will Thompson and friends blazed new trail and revamped the existing scramble to the summit, Little Si was the province of scramblers and adventuring types. In 1989, the 28.2 acre Little Si Natural Area was acquired by King County and infrastructure improvements have continued since that time, including dedicated parking areas and the shift of the trailhead further away from private property. With this most recent visit, we took note of additional parking that seems nearly ready for public use, which will help take some pressure off the existing lot which is almost always overflowing.
Over the years, perhaps because of these improvements, Little Si has become increasingly popular, and you can expect to meet plenty of company on the trail. The short hike up to the top is pleasant nonetheless, beginning with a moderate grade and continuing up into thick stands of second generation forest. The trail winds beneath this canopy until it is broken by the rocky overhangs frequented by climbers. A number of spurs split off from the main trail to the base of these cliffs, allowing you a few more places to explore on the way back down. Switchbacks become more common as you near the top, while the trees open up to reveal views of Si and the haystack. The rocky summit will likely be occupied, but as you jockey for a view, you’ll see North Bend spread out below, Rattlesnake Mountain dominating the skyline to the south, and Mt. Washington marking the beginnings of the Cascades to the southeast.
Little Si is close, easily accessible, and just hard enough to feel like a hike, yet still gentle enough for the whole family. While not exactly high adventure, it was good to go back and see how things have progressed; most notably the old truss bridge that long spanned the Middle Fork Snoqualmie has vanished, replaced by the new bridge that had been in progress for years. To get there take I-90 to Exit 31, taking a left into town. Navigate the roundabout and outlet mall traffic until you get to North Bend Way, and take a right and head north to Mount Si Road (aka 432nd NE) on the left. Keep an eye out for this one, it comes up fast. Once you’re on the road, follow it about a mile, going over the bridge and attempt to find a spot in the lot you’ll see on the left. - Nathan
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