My first big hike of the year set the bar high for the rest of the season. We caught glimpses of Rainier and Crystal through the charred trees all the way up but nothing compared to the panoramic views once we reached the upper ridge. There we found layers upon layers of blue mountain ranges in the distance with snow-capped peaks and green valleys in the foreground. After a snowy scramble to the top and a scenic ridge line traverse, we enjoyed a peaceful lunch with the sunny summit all to ourselves.
Profile: 10.0 mi RT, 2900 ft elevation gain
Date Hiked: Saturday May 11, 2019
Conditions: Snow above 6,000 ft. No bugs. Uncrowded.
Permit required: Northwest Forest Pass
The trail starts on a forest road but quickly turns left onto a proper trail. The first ⅔ of the trail are wooded switchbacks that follow a fairly consistent and comfortable grade. There are a handful of offshoot trails along the way – stay the main trail to reach Norse Peak. About 2-3 miles in, you’ll begin to see the aftermath of last summer’s fire – charred trees and wood. We hit snow about ⅔ of the way up around 6,000 feet. The snow was very slushy and while I used Yak Trax for traction, nobody else in my group did and the snow is totally passable in normal hiking boots. The very last push is steep and requires a bit of wayfinding. Though the trail had low traffic, there were enough footprints in the snow for us to follow along successfully. After an exhausting, snowy final stretch, it was tempting to call the first few steps along the ridgeline the “summit”. However, the true summit is about a half mile walk along the ridgeline. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you see the large rock pit formation, where we ate lunch.
Trekking poles may be helpful for snow crossings but not required.
We glissaded down some snow sections – exercise judgement and pick wide-open chutes.
Expect the upper section to take more time – slogging through slushy snow is slow.
As always, follow Leave No Trace principles and stay on the trail
We highly recommend Pita’s Taqueria in Enumclaw for a massive, delicious, well-deserved burrito on the drive home.