Bandera Mountain

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
  • 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,

    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, Washington.
    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, Washington.
    Later in the summer, the beargrass is replaced by cheery drifts of fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium syn. Chamerion angustifolium), here fringing the view of neighboring Putrid Pete’s Peak and Mount Defiance.
    Bandera Mountain Trail, Washington.
    Bandera Mountain’s early summer wildflower display dazzles with a palette of other blooms including, first column, Davidson’s beardtongues (Penstemon davidsonii) (top) and woodland beardtongues (Nothochelone nemorosa) (bottom); second column, small-flowered, or, pincushion penstemons (Penstemon procerus) (top) and scarlet paintbrushes (Castilleja miniata) (bottom); third column, western bunchberries (Cornus unalaschkensis) (top) and western pearly everlastings (Anaphalis margaritacea) (bottom); fourth column, Cascade asters (Eucephalus ledophyllus) (top) and pink mountain-heaths (Phyllodoce empetriformis) (bottom); fifth column, broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius var. subalpinus) (top), fool’s-huckleberries (Rhododendron menziesii) (center), and orange agoserises (Agoseris aurantiaca) (bottom), and, sixth column, heart-leaf arnicas (Arnica cordifolia) (top), Columbia lilies (Lilium columbianum) (center), and white rhododendrons, or, Cascade azaleas (Rhododendron albiflorum) (bottom).
    Bandera Mountain Trail, Washington.
    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, Washington.
    In the unfolding view from near Bandera Mountain’s summit, the Cascade Mountains continue northward beyond sight. Bandera Mountain Trail, Washington.
    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, Washington.
    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, Washington.
    In the panorama sweeping from Bandera Mountain’s summit, Mt. Rainier crowns the southern horizon.
    Bandera Mountain Trail, Washington.

    © 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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