Total Ascent: 2200ft
Highest Point: 4500ft
Total Distance: 6.5 miles
Location: N 47° 14.9040, W 121° 8.3640
Required Permit: None.
A few months ago before the grey of autumn brought along chilly winds and endless rain, we found some time to head out over Snoqualmie Pass to tackle Easton Ridge. Much like nearby Kachess Ridge, the hike promised an exposed ridgeline with broad views of nearby peaks and lakes. Easton Ridge not only delivered the views, but also surprised us with abundant fields of wildflowers.
Easton Ridge is named after the nearby town of Easton, located just below the ridge to the southwest. Settled in 1886, Easton was platted in 1902, and served as an important railroad stop along the Northern Pacific Railway. It was named for its proximity to the east end of the Stampede Tunnel -- the long-gone railroad town of Weston once served the other side of the tunnel. By the 1930s, airplanes were also flying over Snoqualmie Pass, following a string of beacons like the one on Kachess Ridge. During this time an airstrip was constructed by the federal government as an emergency landing field for military transports. You can pick out the long green rectangle that is the Easton Airport from the trail, still used today for those able to land on its unpaved, grassy surface. In 1934, a fire tower was constructed on Easton Ridge to help guard the town against unexpected forest fires. It was probably around this time that the beginnings of the Easton Ridge trail were blazed, once stretching from one end of the ridge to the other. But the fire tower was destroyed in 1948, and the trail began to fade. Today, while the trail to the top is fairly clear, only faint sections beyond the top remain, leading down the ridge to the trail’s eastern end.
Kachess Ridge Trail. However, the Easton Ridge Trail is a little trickier to find. From the Kachess Ridge junction, head toward Silver Creek and drop down to the water to find a sturdy bridge crossing the creek near an old wooden dam. From here the trail beings a series of tight switchbacks straight up the mountainside, climbing roughly 1200’ feet in the first mile or so. Emerge from the young forest just beyond the junction to the Domerie Divide Trail #1308.2 and catch some of early glimpses of Little Kachess Lake and Easton below.
Continue upwards following the ridgeline, ignoring any tempting side trails that might lead you astray. Pass through grassy meadows that burst with a variety of wildflowers in the spring. As you near the first of many rocky outcroppings, the trail becomes more difficult to follow, fading and all but disappearing entirely in spots. Continue onward and upward until you reach the highpoint. Find a comfortable section of rock and take in 360-degree views that include Mt. Rainier, Mt. Stuart and nearby Domerie Peak and Mount Baldy. Still looking for more trail time? You can continue down the ridge attempting to follow what remains of the old trail, or you can double back to the Domerie Divide Trail and do some further exploring.
Easton Ridge works well for an early season hike. At a lower elevation and located east of Snoqualmie Pass, it tends to melt out quickly. And while more folks are discovering the hikes near Easton, they do not get nearly as much traffic as other I-90 hikes leaving you to enjoy the big views without a lot of company. Although there is a bit of elevation gain, but most hikers should be able to tackle Easton Ridge, making it a great alternative on a sunny weekend. We recommend you tackle this hike in late June or July when the wildflowers will be at their height.
To get there, take I-90 to Exit 70. Take a left over the freeway and turn left onto West Sparks Road. Continue for a half-mile to FR 4818 (signed Kachess Dam Road) and take a right. Follow FR 4818 for a mile to an unmarked road on the right. Follow this road for a half-mile to the small parking area at the trailhead. -Nathan
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