Our Hiking Time: 6h
Total Ascent: 3100ft
Highest Point: 6278ft
Total Distance: 3 miles
Location: N 47° 27.5340, W 121° 24.9900
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
A gorgeous day demanded that we find a high perch to survey the landscape. Luckily, we had just the hike in mind, a summit that we’d noticed on our way up Guye Peak: Snoqualmie Mountain.
Snoqualmie Mountain quietly rises above the rest of the Snoqualmie Pass peaks, clocking in at 6,278’. Despite being the highest peak in the Pass, its broad, rounded slopes do not cut a dramatic profile. Snoqualmie Mountain and the surrounding area were already abuzz with activity by the time a USGS survey led by Albert H. Sylvester made the first recorded summit climb in 1898. While miner’s boots originally pounded out most of the trails in the area, it was the Mountaineers, who put Snoqualmie Mountain on their list of peaks to bag in the 1920s, that kept the trail from being lost.
Today the trail is still unofficial, with all the challenges that come along with that honor. The trail begins a few feet from the Snow Lake #1013 trailhead, up an unsigned dirt road. Keep an eye out for a small side trail branching to the right, about a tenth of a mile up the road. If you reach a shed, you’ve gone too far. Once on the narrow trail, be prepared for a rough ride. The route takes advantage of rocky streambeds, cuts through groves of encroaching alder, climbs over talus fields and up ridges of loose rock. Fortunately, vegetation is close by to steady your balance or provide a helping hand. After about a mile, a signed junction in a talus field marks the routes to Snoqualmie Mountain and Guye Peak. Veer left over the rocks for Snoqualmie Mountain.
When you’re not watching the ground for obstacles, catch occasional pocket views of the ski slopes of Alpental and Snoqualmie Pass. The vegetation rapidly changes from lowland underbrush, to mountain forest, and finally to sparse alpine wildflowers and trees. The transition to the open air roughly marks the half-way point. From here, the trail switchbacks up the exposed ridge to the summit, the views getting more impressive with every step. A few patches of trees lend some relief from the sun, but expect a hot and dusty trudge to the top.
Although challenging, Snoqualmie Mountain dishes out a phenomenal panorama. On a good day, Mt. Rainier commands the skyline. Looking clockwise from Rainer’s snowy slopes, follow the long craggy ridgeline that begins with Denny Mountain, becomes The Tooth, then Hemlock Peak and Bryant Peak before culminating above Snow Lake in a massive mountain that sprouts Chair Peak, Kaleetan Peak, and Mount Roosevelt. Swing past Snow Lake and check out the seemingly gentle ridges of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley and on the best of days catch a glimpse of Glacier Peak in the distance. Nearby Lundin Peak and the distinctive Red Mountain sit almost directly opposite of Rainier, with Mt. Thompson, Kendall Peak and Alta Mountain. Cave Ridge and Guye Peak sit to the east with Keechelus Lake.
We highly recommend this hike for those that are up for a little punishment. We definitely met some folks on the trail, but they were a tiny percentage of the hikers clogging the parking lot bound for Snow Lake. There is plenty of room at the top to find a place to settle down, argue about the names of peaks, and enjoy a hard-earned lunch.
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 dirt road is across the road to the right, near the Snow Lake trailhead. -Nathan
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