|Trail Highlights:||Panoramic views; wildflowers
|Round-trip Distance:||8.00 miles / 12.90 km
|Location:||Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest,
Snoqualmie Pass / Snoqualmie Valley, Washington Central Cascades
Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
|Directions:||From east- and westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 45
From Exit 45, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto Forest Road 9030 (road name may not be posted)
At 0.70 miles/1.10 km, stay left at the fork to proceed onto Forest Road 9031, as indicated by signage for the Ira Spring Trail
Proceed 3.60 miles/5.80 km to the parking lot at the end of the road
Pavement ends at 0.30 miles/0.50 km from the off-ramp and the remainder of the road is gravel and can be quite potholed
The Bandera Mountain Trail branches from the Ira Spring Trail approximately 2.75 miles/4.40 km from the trailhead
|Required Pass:||Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
|Additional Trail Info:||Washington Trails Association
Bandera Mountain’s sharply steepled ridge, upswept slopes, and bird’s-eye views accentuate its elevation (5,241 feet/1,585 meters), which is also proven by the effort undertaken in reaching its rugged summit. Bandera Mountain Trail, August 31, 2009.
Bandera Mountain’s strenuous ascent rewards fortitude with panoramic views of the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley, peaks surrounding on all compass points, and, during the brief early summer wildflower season, a kaleidoscopic tapestry of blooms. The trail’s incline increases dramatically as soon as it branches northward from the Ira Spring Trail and, with more boulders than soil and nary a switchback, is not for the weak of knee or ankle. Trekking poles may be helpful. A fire in 1958 left much of the mountaintop nearly bald, from which it has yet to recover, but which affords increasingly grand views as the trail climbs.
This profile begins where the side trail to Bandera Mountain’s summit turns sharply upward from the Ira Spring Trail, which continues across its lower flank to Mason Lake, Mount Defiance, and other destinations by connecting trails. The Ira Spring Trail is heavily used; however, except during peak wildflower season, few hikers venture up Bandera Mountain’s ramparts, where a bit of ridgetop solitude may be found amongst its jumbled stones. Although the distant whir of Interstate 90 occasionally wafts from the valley floor below, it is hushed by the mountainside’s windswept vastness.
From the Ira Spring Trail, the side trail to Bandera Mountain’s summit surges skyward through a vast, boulder-cobbled meadow. Bandera Mountain Trail, July 09, 2014.
Views skim the mountaintops in all directions from the treeless slopes about the trail. In early summer, common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) blankets the meadow in a stunning mantle of nearly waist-high plumes. Bandera Mountain Trail, July 09, 2014.
Later in the summer, the beargrass is replaced by cheery drifts of fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), here fringing the view of neighboring Putrid Pete’s Peak and Mount Defiance. Bandera Mountain Trail, August 18, 2013.
Bandera Mountain’s early summer wildflower display dazzles with a palette of other blooms including, clockwise from top left, orange agoseris (Agoseris aurantiaca), white rhododendron (Rhododendron albiflorum), Cascade aster (Eucephalus ledophyllus), Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum), scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), and lupine (Lupinus sp.). Bandera Mountain Trail, August 18, 2013 and July 09, 2014.
Bandera Mountain is also home to various species of penstemon, which flourish among its stones. Known for their appearance as gaping, disembodied lips and throats, some penstemon are also imaginatively called “beardtongues” because of the fuzz inside their flowers’ yawning gorges. Across the top and in the lower left, variously hued blooms of Davidson’s beardtongues (Penstemon davidsonii) jut from their ridgetop, rockside holds. In the lower center, littleflower, or, pincushion penstemons (Penstemon procerus) loft tiny, pom-pom bloom clusters. As its name implies, the woodland beardtongue (Nothochelone nemorosa), lower right, inhabits open forests as well as mountain meadows and can be found throughout the trailside. Bandera Mountain Trail, July 05 and 09, 2014.
Beyond the meadow, the trail picks its way along Bandera Mountain’s boulder-strewn ridgeline, where the view plunges seemingly headlong to the valley floor below. Bandera Mountain Trail, July 09, 2014.
In the unfolding view from near Bandera Mountain’s summit, the Cascade Mountains continue northward beyond sight. Bandera Mountain Trail, August 18, 2013.
Along the ridgetop, look for glimpses of Mason Lake far below between Bandera Mountain and Mount Defiance. Lake Kulla Kulla is barely visible above the trees to the upper right (north) of Mason Lake. Bandera Mountain Trail, August 31, 2009.
Below the summit, Interstate 90 snakes westward alongside Mount Defiance, Putrid Pete’s Peak, and Webb Mountain (also known as West Defiance). Bandera Mountain Trail, August 18, 2013.
In the panorama sweeping from Bandera Mountain’s summit, Mt. Rainier crowns the southern horizon. Bandera Mountain Trail, July 09, 2014.