Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 1500ft
Highest Point: 3900ft
Total Distance: 5.5 miles
Location: N 47° 1.8660, W 121° 31.7520
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Once again finding ourselves a little tight on time, we headed back out to 410 for a short hike up to a prominence known as Little Ranger Peak. Drawn to the promise of an expansive view of the White River Valley we packed up hoping the weather would be in a cooperative mood by the time we got to the top.
The Ranger Creek Trail # 1197 is a moderately popular hiking and biking trail that connects the White River Trail #1199 with the Dalles Ridge Trail #1173. The trail begins right off of 410, but road noise is soon replaced with the sound of rushing waters of Ranger Creek. Within a few minutes you will find the Ranger Creek trail junction leading up the mountainside and into stands of old growth. The moss is thick, clinging to the firs and cedars, fed by the streams the often run across the trail. Occasional glimpses of the valley can be seen as you slowly climb up long and gentle switchbacks.
At just under three miles the trail plateaus and a very short spur trail leads out to Little Ranger Peak. A quick scramble leads out to an open rocky area and commanding views of the White River Valley. Mt. Rainier looks close enough to touch. Take in the steep cliffs, exposed ridgelines, and White River carving a swath through a sea of evergreens. The nearby runway is the Ranger Creek Airstrip. The nearly 3000ft runway sees a lot of air traffic in the summer, for both private aircraft and as a hub for search and rescue operations.
From here, you can turn around and call it a day or continue onward for another two miles to the Ranger Creek Shelter, a three-sided log shelter built by Boy Scouts a number of years ago. Still want some more mileage? A little over a mile beyond the shelter the trail connects with the Dalles Ridge Trail which is reportedly an excellent ridgewalk on a sunny day.
With its gentle grade and quick rewards, take this little hike up to a rocky prominence if you’re short on time. Be aware that you may be sharing the trail with mountain bikers and be prepared to give them a little room – the trail is much more challenging on a bike! And, as a word of caution, clambering all the way out to the viewpoint can be dangerous, especially if the rocks are slick with moisture. Use caution if you decide to risk the scramble.
To get there, take I-5 south to Highway 18 Exit 142A. Follow Highway 18 into Auburn and take the SR 164 exit. Head left on SR 164 through Enumclaw to SR 410. Head left onto SR 410 and continue to milepost 54 and the Buck Creek Recreation Area. Take a right over the bridge to find parking. Gear up and hike back out to 410, crossing the highway, either hiking straight up the hill side or a few hundred yards west to the junction with the White River Trail. -Nathan
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