Mount Washington (King County)

Trail Highlights:Panoramic, lake, and mountain views; wildflowers
Round-trip Distance:8.30 miles / 13.40 km
Location:Olallie State Park, Snoqualmie Pass / Snoqualmie River Valley,
Washington Central Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
Directions:
  • From eastbound Interstate 90, take Exit 38
  • Turn right onto SE Homestead Valley Road and immediately cross a bridge
  • Just after crossing the bridge, turn right up a short gravel road to the parking lot, as indicated by signage for Olallie State Park and Twin Falls

  • From westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 38
  • From Exit 38, turn left onto SE Homestead Valley road to cross under the freeway (road name may not be posted)
  • Immediately turn right to stay on SE Homestead Valley Road and proceed 1.70 miles/2.70 km
  • Just before reaching a bridge and crossing under the freeway again, turn left onto the gravel road to the parking lot, indicated by signage for Olallie State Park and Twin Falls

  • As noted below, the trail branches from the Homestead Valley route to Twin Falls
    Required Pass:Discover Pass or equivalent for state recreation sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    Note:This page profiles the trail to Mount Washington in King County, Washington, rather than those of the same name located in Skagit and Mason counties, Washington and elsewhere in North America.

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    Streaming clouds from its wintry mantle, Mount Washington rises dramatically from the surrounding lowlands in this view from Rattlesnake Ledge. December 30, 2016.

    A bastion at the edge of the Cascades, Mount Washington is one of the first peaks encountered east of Seattle, Washington.  Previously stripped of forest by logging and wildfires, Mount Washington is now cloaked with woodland in varying stages of recovery.  The rocky trail begins in a dim corridor of close, deciduous forest and climbs steeply for approximately half its distance before relenting in its grade.  As the trail enters young conifer plantings, views open increasingly until it reaches the summit’s summertime display of wildflowers and sweeping lake and mountain vistas.

    The trail is one of several crisscrossing Olallie State Park.  Signage along the trail is sparse and confusing.  From the parking area at the trailhead, a short trail leads to a gravel road above the parking area.  (The gravel road can also be reached directly at the gate on the left of the parking area entrance.)  Follow the gravel road uphill a short distance to the Iron Horse Trail (also called the John Wayne Pioneer Trail), the former route of an old railroad between Chicago, Illinois and Tacoma, Washington and now a wide gravel trail popular with local walkers, runners, and cyclists.  Turn right onto the Iron Horse Trail.  In a scant few hundred feet/150 meters, the poorly marked trail to Mount Washington branches left from the Iron Horse Trail — look for small stone cairns and a message scratched into the bark of a tree to identify the Mount Washington Trail, as shown below.  About 2.80 miles/4.50 km from the trailhead, the trail briefly merges with the unmarked Olallie Trail before continuing on the other side approximately 200 feet/60 meters to the left.  Again, look for both formal and informal signage to guide the way, as shown below.

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    The Mount Washington Trail’s nondescript departure from the Iron Horse Trail, shown here on the upper left, is easy to miss, especially given several nearby false trails that lead nowhere. The trail is marked by an easily toppled cairn and bounded by two small red alder trees (Alnus rubra) (lower left). The alder on the right of the trail bears the small, carved inscription, “Mt. WA” (right). Iron Horse Trail/Mount Washington Trail, May 25, 2015.
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    As the trail climbs, spindly young conifer forest fences much of its stony ascent. Mount Washington Trail, July 26, 2016.
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    Throughout the shadowy woodland where little else blooms, starry-eyed Siberian springbeauty (Claytonia sibrica) brightens the forest floor. Mount Washington Trail, July 30, 2016.
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    Natural stone walls characterize much of the trailside, some adorned with ferns and vibrant lichens. A cave in one such wall about 1.00 mile/1.60 km from the trailhead is used by rock climbers for training — look for climbing hardware dangling from the ceiling of the cave as you pass. Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009 and July 30, 2016.
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    Here and there, windows in the forest offer peek-a-boo views of other mountains beyond. To the northeast, the view stretches up the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009.
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    Foxgloves’ (Digitalis purpurea) lolling bells dangle from a rocky meadow in one of the forest’s
    only clearings along the trail. Mount Washington Trail, July 30, 2016.
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    At approximately 2.80 miles/4.50 km from the trailhead, the trail briefly merges with the Olallie Trail, the park’s mountain biking track. Turn left up the Olallie Trail and continue approximately 200 feet/60 meters to where the Mount Washington Trail departs uphill on the right. Informal and less than permanent signage marks both sections of the Mount Washington Trail — if in doubt, look for helpful cairns, sticks, and handwritten notes left by other hikers to indicate the way.
    Mount Washington Trail, July 26, 2016.
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    A jumbled boulderfield near the summit affords a view of neighboring Change Peak.
    Mount Washington Trail, July 30, 2016.
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    As the trail climbs, a few summer blooms appear where the stunted forest opens, including, clockwise from top left, woodland penstemons, or, woodland beardtongues (Nothochelone nemorosa), liverleaf wintergreens (Pyrola asarifolia), Cascade beardtongues (Penstemon serrulatus), fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius), and common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax). Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009 and July 30, 2016.
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    Just below the summit, forest again encloses the trail and slender tree trunks pinstripe the surrounding mountainside. Note the downhill curve at the base of each tree, created by the weight of winter snows when they were young and pliable. Mount Washington Trail, July 26, 2016.
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    At the trail’s final switchback, the woodland gives way to a burgeoning, steeply pitched meadow.
    Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009.
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    In the mountaintop meadow, look for American saw-worts (Saussurea americana) (top left); edible thistles (Cirsium edule) (right); cow parsnips (Heracleum maximum, a.k.a. Heracleum lanatum) (center left); Columbia lilies (Lilium columbianum) (center); Sitka valerians (Valeriana sitchensis) (lower left); and common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), in both its standard white and less common rose variations (lower center). The insects pictured here are not bees, but hoverflies (Syrphidae), which mimic bees’ markings for protection from predators. Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009 and July 30, 2016.
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    Around the meadow’s shaded edges, look for shade-loving star Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum stellatum) (left); heart-leaf arnicas (Arnica cordifolia) (top right); and Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa) (lower right).
    Mount Washington Trail, July 09, 2009 and July 30, 2016.
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    On a cloudless day, Mt. Rainier greets sight just as the trail clears the forest. Mount Washington Trail, July 26, 2016.
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    Beyond the slowly rising forest, the mountaintop clearing affords a bird’s-eye glimpse of Chester Morse Lake and Masonry Pool, which were created by damming the Cedar River and inundating what was once Cedar Lake to supply water to Seattle, Washington. Mount Washington Trail, July 30, 2016.
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    Mount Washington’s northern view scans the ridge comprising Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Green Mountain (here, in the left and center background) and Mail Box Peak rising at the juncture of the South and Middle Fork Snoqualmie River valleys (here, in the right middleground). Mount Washington Trail, July 30, 2016.
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