q̓əlbc̓ / Mount Si

Trail Highlights:Panoramic views; historic context
Round-trip Distance:8.00 miles / 12.90 km
Location:Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area,
Snoqualmie Pass / Snoqualmie Valley, Washington Central Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
Directions:
  • From east- and westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 32
  • From Exit 32, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto 436th Ave. SE and proceed 0.50 miles/0.80 km
  • Turn left onto SE North Bend Way and proceed 0.30 miles/0.50 km
  • Turn left on SE Mt. Si Road and proceed 2.30 miles/3.70 km
  • Turn left into parking lot, indicated by a small sign
  • Required Pass:Discover Pass or equivalent for state recreation sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    Washington Department of Natural Resources

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    Mount Si rises abruptly from the lowlands on the Cascades’ western frontier, seen here from the nearby Meadowbrook Farm Preserve. The Mount Si Trail zigzags up the mountain’s spine on the right of this photo, ending at the foot of the notched “haystack” on the peak. Meadow Loop Trail, Meadowbrook Farm Preserve, May 09, 2021.

    East of Seattle’s greater metropolitan area, q̓əlbc̓, also known as Mount Si, rises as the first of many Cascade peaks to come.  Its trail climbs steadily and steeply through deep woodland shade until it reaches the rocky, often windswept summit with views stretching down the Snoqualmie River Valley to the skyscrapers of Bellevue and Seattle, Washington, the glimmering waters of Puget Sound, and the snow-tipped peaks of the Olympic Mountains beyond.  For many locals, Mount Si is the standard comparator for other hikes and, given its rigorous elevation gain (3,150 feet/960 meters in 4.00 miles/6.40 km), is used by many to build endurance while training to ascend higher peaks.  In addition, this craggy alpine summit’s close proximity to urban areas (only 32.00 miles/51.00 km from Seattle, Washington) renders Mount Si a popular hiking destination.  Come early and be prepared to appreciate the company of others or try hiking this local favorite on a less-crowded weekday.

    To vary your route and enjoy a bit more solitude (and distance), try either the Douglas Fir Trail or the Old Si Trail that branch from Little Si‘s Boulder Garden Loop and connect to Mount Si’s main trail at various points.  Vary it further by detouring onto Mount Si’s Talus Loop, which provides alternate routes to the summit and to nearby Mount Teneriffe and Teneriffe Falls.  (Check out the “Mount Si Trail Map” link on the Washington Department of Natural Resources site above for a great map of the trail network around Mount Si and its surrounding natural resources conservation area.)

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    At lower elevations, leafy lowland forest drapes the trail in verdure. From the picnic area at the trailhead, the very short, 0.30-mile/0.50-km Creekside Loop (also known as the Francis North Loop) provides a level, barrier-free path beneath arching, moss-hung branches of bigleaf maple (Acer macophyllum). The loop is not a fully ADA-accessible trail, but nevertheless creates a bit more opportunity to enjoy this popular destination.
    Creekside Loop, Mount Si Trail, September 05, 2021.
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    As the main trail steadily climbs, the forest quickly becomes evergreen, its unbranched columns creating lofty spaces in the lush understory below. Mount Si Trail, September 05, 2021.
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    Approximately 0.70 miles/1.10 km from the trailhead, the Mount Si Trail arrives at its first junction with the Talus Loop, a side trail that detours 1.30 miles/2.10 km through similar forest on Mount Si’s eastern flank before rejoining the main trail approximately 2.50 miles/4.10 km from the main trailhead. In addition to shaving approximately 0.50 miles/0.80 km off the total distance to the summit, the little-used loop trail also affords a bit of solitude away from the busy main trail. The Talus Loop is named for the stone-strewn slope near the upper junction, which gazes over North Bend, Washington and beyond to Mailbox Peak, McClellan Butte, and Mount Washington. The Talus Loop and adjoining Roaring Creek Trail both branch east to join the Mount Teneriffe Trail, which provides an alternate route to Mount Si’s summit via the Upper Si – Teneriffe Connector Trail. (On some maps, the Talus Loop’s lower segment is misnamed “Roaring Creek Trail” or “Upper Roaring Creek Trail”; however, the trails themselves are clearly marked.)
    Talus Loop, Mount Si Trail, November 22, 2015.
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    Just after its upper junction with the Talus Loop, the main trail reaches Snag Flat, where, in 1910, an entrenched forest fire smoldered for weeks. The conflagration’s damage is still evident in the dead trees standing and, mostly, strewn across this relatively level section of the forest floor (hence the name) and in the charred bark blackening the survivors. Beyond Snag Flat, the lush forest gives way to the stunted, less diverse woodland of higher elevation. Mount Si Trail, May 24, 2014.
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    Views from Mount Si’s summit begin as soon as the trail clears the treeline. First to greet the sight are the neighboring Cascade Mountains stretching southeast beyond the Middle and South Fork Snoqualmie River valleys. North Bend, Washington lies directly below. But don’t stop here — continue to pick your way up the boulders for more expansive views to the west. Mount Si Trail, September 05, 2021.
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    Mt. Rainier tops the horizon in the southerly view from Mount Si. Mount Si Trail, April 18, 2015.
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    Beneath the clouds, Mount Si’s sweeping westward view encompasses North Bend, Lake Sammamish, Lake Washington, Bellevue, Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains. Mount Si Trail, May 24, 2014.
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    Mount Si’s rugged summit is crowned by a stone promontory, or “haystack.” A near vertical chute up its eastern face leads to the top, but, as both the route and peak have significant exposure, hikers without rock climbing experience are advised not to attempt it. Instead, enjoy the sufficiently panoramic views from the safety below the haystack and poke about for the wildflowers and other life that cling to the rocks. Mount Si Trail, May 08, 2010.
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    Although scattered, a surprising variety of distinctive wildflowers flecks the trailside from base to summit, including, first column, top to bottom, hedge-nettles (Stachys sp.) and common harebells (Campanula rotundifolia); second column, top to bottom, scarlet paintbrushes (Castilleja miniata), salal (Gaultheria shallon), and spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa); third column, top to bottom, vine maple (Acer circinatum) and common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax); and fourth column, top to bottom, woodland beardtongues (Nothochelone nemorosa), trailing blackberries, or, dewberries (Rubus ursinus), and herb-Roberts, or, stinky Bobs (Geranium robertianum).
    Mount Si Trail, June 30, 2012, May 24, 2014, and September 05, 2021.
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    Gray jays, or, Canada jays (Perisoreus canadensis) frequent Mount Si’s summit, looking for hand-outs or boldly snatching them from unsuspecting hikers. The jays cache the food in crevices of trees for later consumption.
    Mount Si Trail, December 10, 2017.
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    In an ominous view from nearby Rattlesnake Ledge, Mount Si meets a lowering sky. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail, April 24, 2009.

    To the Native American Snoqualmie (“people of the moon”), q̓əlbc̓ is the body of the moon god Snoqualm, who was the keeper of fire and fire-making tools.  Known for their resourcefulness and stealth, Fox (or, in some versions of the myth, Beaver) and Blue Jay stole the fire and tools.  On their way back down to Earth, they inadvertently spilled the fire in the sky, which continues to burn as the Sun.  They gave the fire-making tools to humankind.  Snoqualm perished in a fall to Earth while attempting to retrieve his property and his visage is still said to be visible in profile near the summit.

    Mount Si’s English name derives from that of a local European settler, Josiah “Uncle Si” Merritt.  The mountain also served as the backdrop for the 1990s television series Twin Peaks.

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

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