Mount Zion

Trail Highlights:Wildflowers; mountain and panoramic views
Round-trip Distance:≅ 5.00 miles / 8.00 km
Location:Olympic National Forest, Olympic Peninsula - East

Ancestral lands of the Twana, or, Skokomish and Suquamish
  • From U.S. Route 101 approximately 2.00 miles/3.20 km north of Quilcene, Washington between Mileposts 292 and 293, turn right from southbound/left from northbound onto Lords Lake Loop Road
  • Proceed 3.40 miles/5.50 km to a "T" intersection
  • Turn left onto an unsigned and unpaved gravel road, shown on some maps as Little Quilcene Road
  • Proceed 0.60 miles/1.00 km to a fork and take the right fork, which is unsigned
  • Proceed 0.10 miles/0.16 km and stay right at the next fork to take Forest Road 28, signed "FR 28", shown on some maps as Little Quilcene Road
  • Proceed 3.40 miles/5.50 km to a four-way intersection
  • Turn right to remain on Forest Road 28, signed "2800"
  • Proceed 1.20 miles/1.90 km to a broad fork in the road and take the slightly larger, unsigned right fork, shown variously on some maps as Forest Road 28, Forest Road 2810, and Forest Road 2849 (the fork is at Bon Jon Pass, which is unsigned and does not appear on most maps, but is still noted in most directions to the trailhead)
  • Proceed 2.00 miles/3.20 km and turn into the parking lot on the left
  • Walk across Forest Road 28/2810/2849 to the Mount Zion trailhead (do not take the Sleepy Hollow Trail that leads directly from the parking lot)

  • Forks and intersections are noted above where the route may be unclear, but additional side roads branch from the route. A trip meter is helpful in gauging the distances noted.

    Beware of potholes, muddy conditions, and steep drop-offs along unpaved sections of road.

    Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    U.S. Forest Service

    Mount Zion’s signature feature is its abundance of Pacific, or coast rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum), which reach tree-like stature and brighten even the shadiest woodland stands with masses of springtime blooms.
    Mount Zion Trail,

    Mount Zion is known as one of the premiere trails for viewing Washington’s state flower, the Pacific, or, coast rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum). During the late mountain spring, typically from mid-May to mid-June, the rhododendrons’ luscious blooms line the path from trailhead to summit. The trail climbs moderately to steeply through dense, second-growth forest recovering from past wildfires. Although new forest has nearly reclaimed the view from Mount Zion’s true summit, two short, roughly 0.25-mile/0.40-km bootpaths branch from the summit and lead to better views along the craggy ridgeline. The left fork leads northwest along a precipitous ridge to peekaboo views across the distant, island-dotted Salish Sea to the snowy Cascades topping the horizon beyond, while the right fork leads southeast to a commanding view of Mount Townsend. Including the ridgetop side trails, the overall round-trip distance is just over 5.00 miles/8.00 km.

    Although the rhododendrons steal the show during their bloom season, the moist woodland hosts a number of other unusual wildflowers to be found in the park-like wayside. As one might expect, the trail is quite popular when the rhododendrons are in bloom, although it is much less visited on week days. Furthermore, the Olympic Peninsula’s abundant precipitation can be a blessing in disguise, providing opportunity to enjoy a bit of rainy day solitude among the blooms. Given Mount Zion’s relative remoteness, no sounds of civilization mar the tranquility.

    Mount Zion’s trail zigzags upward beneath close, lichen-draped forest until it reaches the summit.
    Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Banks of rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum) are constant wayside companions throughout the trail’s length.
    Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    From bud to bloom, the trailside rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum) lend an exotic air to the woodland shadows. Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Although forest has reclaimed the nondescript summit, views still stretch across the treetops from the boot paths that branch on either side. The northeastern vista skims Admiralty Inlet and the many islands and peninsulas that pattern the Salish Sea, reaching Mt. Baker and Mount Shuksan capping the far-off Cascade Range. Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    From the summit, the side trail to the left leads northwest along the brink of a rhododendron-lined precipice to limited views beyond. Exercise caution along this segment of trail, especially with small children. Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Both boot paths that fork left and right from the summit lead to stony outcrops that gaze southwest to Bon Jon Peak directly across the valley and on to Mount Townsend topping the horizon. Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza spp.) are especially abundant along the trail, including western spotted coralroots (C. maculata var. occidentalis) in both their standard, coppery form (top left) and their uncommon — and unspotted — yellow and white variation (C. maculata var. occidentalis f. immaculata) (top right), and Pacific, or, western coralroot orchids (C. mertensiana) (bottom) in a range of color variations from minimally to almost fully magenta.
    Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Many other wildflowers brighten the spring woodland, including, top row, left to right, Sitka valerians (Valeriana sitchensis), western bunchberries (Cornus unalaschkensis), liverleaf wintergreens (Pyrola asarifolia), queen’s cups (Clintonia uniflora), spreading stonecrops (Sedum divergens), and spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa); center row, Cascade beardtongues (Penstemon serrulatus), harsh paintbrushes (Castilleja hispida), Davidson’s beardtongues (Penstemon davidsonii), and western, or, Sitka columbines (Aquilegia formosa); and, bottom row, salal (Gaultheria shallon), American twinflowers (Linnaea borealis), pinesaps (Monotropa hypopitys syn. Hypopitys monotropa), Cascade desert-parsleys (Lomatium martindalei), matted saxifrages (Saxifraga austromontana), and sidebells wintergreens (Orthilia secunda).
    Mount Zion Trail, Washington.
    Even on an overcast day, clouds fleeting from Bon Jon Peak, Mount Townsend, and the surrounding valley reward the intrepid hiker with their own magnificent display. Mount Zion Trail, Washington.

    © 2016-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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