From a quick jaunt, to a bit of local history, to a strenuous climb, Dirty Harry’s Peak offers a variety of hiking options with spectacular views. The peak and its features are named for Harry Gault, an early 1940s logger who was notorious for his efficiency in scalping the mountainsides of trees, even in terrain where other loggers dared not venture. The scene of his handiwork, still littered with discarded logging equipment, now bears his dubious sobriquet, although new forest has gradually reclaimed the ravaged landscape. Its most popular attraction is Dirty Harry’s Balcony, the highest of a series of natural rock ledges protruding from the mountainside, with a clifftop view stretching up the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. The Balcony is reached by a short, well-marked side trail approximately 2.20 miles/3.50 km from the trailhead. Along the main trail, short boot paths also branch to a couple of the lower balconies, with similar views, as well as to a number of rock climbing sites; when in doubt as to which trail to take, look for signs designating the main trail as “DHPT.” A little farther up the main trail from the Balcony, Dirty Harry’s Museum is the site of one of Dirty Harry’s abandoned trucks and a few other items, reportedly near a cache of equipment Dirty Harry himself referred to as his “museum.” The Museum is reached by a rugged, unmarked boot path approximately 2.90 miles/4.70 km from the trailhead. Beyond the Balcony and Museum, the main trail continues to the mountaintop, but the grade transitions from a healthy climb to a relentless pitch, achieving much of its elevation gain in its final 1.40 miles/2.30 km. However, the cliff’s-edge vistas at the summit amply reward the effort expended in reaching them.
Given their relative ease of access, Dirty Harry’s Balcony and Museum are popular hiking destinations — come prepared to share them with others, especially on weekends. Furthermore, the trail never quite escapes the distant roar of traffic trundling along busy Interstate 90, which snakes through the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley views far below. Finally, do exercise great caution on the balconies and at the summit, especially when hiking with children or dogs, as the ledges are precipitous and falls will undoubtedly end unfortunately.
The trail climbs through mostly coniferous forest regrown from Dirty Harry’s deeds of decades ago. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 19, 2019.
Approximately 0.25 miles/0.40 km from the trailhead, the trail reaches Grouse Ridge Road at a large, concrete bridge that spans the South Fork Snoqualmie River. After enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the emerald-tinted waters, continue on the trail just to the right of the far end of the bridge.
Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, April 30, 2016.
From one of the only forest clearings before the trail reaches Dirty Harry’s Balcony, the view opens westward down the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley, skirting Mount Washington (left), Rattlesnake Mountain (center), and Mount Si (right). Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, June 02, 2019.
From Dirty Harry’s Balcony, the view wends southeast up the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. The cluster of peaks on the right are, from right to left, McClellan Butte, Mount Kent, and the twin summits of Duke of Kent and Duchess of Kent. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, June 02, 2019.
Festooned with springtime blooms (here, Davidson’s beardtongues, Penstemon davidsonii), Dirty Harry’s Balcony nevertheless skims the treetops just beyond. Use great care while enjoying the precipice views, especially if hiking with children and dogs. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 15, 2016.
The side trail to Dirty Harry’s Museum is merely a boot path that ducks right into a “cave” of heavy brush approximately 0.70 miles/1.10 km from Dirty Harry’s Balcony, or, 2.90 miles/4.70 km from the main trailhead. The boot path is unmarked except for small cairns and a bit of rusting steel cable remaining from Dirty Harry’s days. Beyond its tunnel-like entrance, the boot path immediately ascends a steep bank before veering right and switchbacking 0.16 miles/0.26 km to the site. Where the boot path is difficult to discern, look for additional cairns and keep right of Museum Creek, which gurgles through boulders and tangled underbrush beside the path. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 19, 2019.
Dirty Harry’s “Museum” consists of one of his abandoned trucks, some rusting cables, and a few other odds and ends, although it is reportedly near a stash of equipment Dirty Harry himself referred to as his “museum.” The truck appears to be a 1930s- or ’40s-model GMC.
Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 19, 2019.
Although not abundant, a surprising variety of spring wildflowers is scattered throughout the trailside’s shady woodlands and sunny outcrops, including, top row, left to right, western serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia), salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis), false lilies-of-the-valley, or, two-leaved false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum dilatatum), various violets, including pioneer, or stream violets (Viola glabella), and harsh paintbrushes (Castilleja hispida); center row, left to right, sticky blue-eyed Marys (Collinsia rattanii), salal (Gaultheria shallon), Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa), Davidson’s beardtongues (Penstemon davidsonii), and Siberian springbeauties (Claytonia sibirica); and lower row, left to right, red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa), common woolly sunflowers (Eriophyllum lanatum), common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), Cascade Oregon-grapes (Berberis nervosa a.k.a. Mahonia nervosa), and Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum). Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, April-June 2016 and 2019.
Beyond the side trail to Dirty Harry’s Museum, the main trail climbs rigorously through close forest, achieving much of its elevation gain in just 1.40 miles/2.30 km. Photos do not accurately portray the trail’s arduous pitch; however, it is well made and easy to follow throughout.
Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 19, 2019.
The climb culminates in a clifftop point bounded by bonsai-like branches of mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) but otherwise exposed to precipitous drop-offs. Exercise great caution in moving about the summit. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, May 19, 2019.
To the northeast, the summit’s knife-edge view overlooks the wilds of Lower Granite Lake and Thompson Point. Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, June 02, 2019.
Keep an eye out for Mt. Rainier peering back over the horizon to the south.
Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, January 18, 2021.
Between Mount Washington (left), Rattlesnake Mountain (center), and Dirtybox Peak (right), the view from Dirty Harry’s Peak sweeps westward down the South Fork Snoqualmie River Valley toward Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. On a clear day, an eagle eye can spy the skyscrapers of Seattle barely visible on the horizon between slivers of Lake Washington and Puget Sound.
Dirty Harry’s Peak Trail, June 02, 2019.