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John is an avid hiker, spending a goodly portion of his time up in the hills, or sitting in front of a computer.
Directions: From Seattle take I-5 South to I-405 North. Get off on Highway 167 to SR 410. Follow SR 410 East past Cayuse Pass. Stay on SR 410 through Chinook Pass. 22 miles East of Cayuse Pass turn right at Bumping Lake Road. Follow Bumping Lake Road 11 miles to the pavements ends. The road turns into Road 1800 and continues on 2.5 miles to a junction. Go left and forward on Road 1800 1.5 miles to the trailhead for Mt. Aix Trail #982 on the left. SUV is not required to get to the trailhead but care should be taken on the road so as not to damage a normal car. My Prelude was fine, but you definitely don't want to take a low-rider!
Trail notes: We left Seattle for Mt. Aix at 6:20 AM arriving at the trailhead at about 9:15 AM. The weather for this hike was wonderful, still cool enough to see your breath at the trailhead with highs expected to be in the low 80’s by midday. We were the first to the trailhead and as it turns out the only ones to hike to Mt. Aix this day!
The hike itself begins on what appears to be the remains of a road, though quickly changes into a trail. Wasting little time, the ascent begins though what appears to be mostly pinion first growth though the general size of the trees is small. Scattered in with these smaller trees are occasional lodge pole and ponderosa pines, some of considerable size.
About 15 to 20 minutes into the hike one passes a small creek which does have a bit of water running through it currently, though appears to be the only semi-reliable source of water on this hike. Once past the creek the grade of the trail becomes more steep and continues along for quite some time. About 30 to 40 minutes into the hike the way becomes pretty steep as you round much steeper sidewalls. Given the surroundings the trail is of very good construction.
After making your way past the steep section the trail takes on a more moderate grade and continues for another 30 minutes until it begins to open up and one gets their first glimpse of Mt. Rainier in the distance as it rises over the ridge to the East. About this time the forest canopy gets less uniform and the filtered sunlight becomes more direct. A perfect time to put on sunscreen and a sun hat if you haven’t already done so. Also about this time one is offered the first glimpse to the West of Nelson Ridge high above. Mt. Aix mind you is another couple hundred feet above the highest peak in view.
As the trees continue to open up the birds chatter drifts away and the wildflowers though past their prime are still in bloom, though in much less frequency than would be found to the West where there is more moisture.
For the next hour or so the trees begin to fade away, the sun becomes warmer, and fortunately the wind also strengthens. Just how strong the wind will be on your trip is unknown, but from what I can tell seems all but assured no matter when you visit. As you make your way through a series of switchbacks, which are very nice, seeming to be almost level at times the views of Mt. Rainier become more grand and you will be able to see Mt. St. Helens in the distance.
Ultimately one gains the ridgeline where one may go north towards Nelson Peak or East towards Mt. Aix which is out of view at the junction. Upon reaching the junction we were confronted with a sign indicating the Mt. Aix trail was closed due to a nearby forest fire. Not being convinced of an imminent threat, and the fact that up this high there is little that can burn we proceeded towards Mt. Aix.
From here the trip to Mt. Aix would seem to be a level traverse but in fact gains and loses several hundred feet en route to the top of Mt. Aix (which is why this hikes elevation is 4500 though the net gain is about 4200). Rounding the Southern point of Nelson Ridge one is given a very beautiful view of Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail then works its way down and back up along the traverse to Mt. Aix. Upon rounding the Southern point Mt. Aix comes into full view and if you weren’t already a bit tired might give you a second thought. For the next 45 minute to an hour one makes their way along the traverse, and ultimately past Mt. Aix proper to a spur which leads up the North side of Mt. Aix. The spur itself is probably the steepest part of the trail and there is a small section requiring the use of hands to make your way up. The slope is talus and scree and shifts quite a bit underfoot. Rounding the North side of Mt. Aix one again loses a hundred or so feet to round a snowfield which probably survives some years entirely. Below the snowfield is a large level area which would be an excellent place to place a tent.
From the snowfield there is a short series of switchbacks on the way to the summit and almost immediately before the top is another level area which has received considerable attention to make it level for some purpose. Probably the best place for a tent. Shortly thereafter you are on top of Mt. Aix and are given 360 degree views of the surrounding area. Absolutely beautiful! From what I can tell Mt. Aix is the highest point anywhere nearby so there is definitely a feeling of being on top of everything. You can look over to what I believe are the Fifes to the Northeast and down into Eastern Washington and eventually into the flatlands it contains. One thing you will probably consider almost immediately, even on a warm day is seeking shelter from the wind, which even though it is pretty warms blows with such consistency as to make your fingers numb. Strange for a day when the air was probably 70.
In summary, Mt. Aix is a beautiful hike which also offers the prospect of solitude. The hike is pretty strenuous, and water is scarce at best. I went through 4 liters and was fine. Still if you run low there is no place to refuel, so you might bring a couple liters extra to ensure this doesn’t happen to you! I read a review that indicated a person made their way to the top of Mt. Aix in 2:20 – 6 miles. I wouldn’t plan on that unless you are quite fit, and quite fast, and not very interested in viewing the surroundings. A more realistic time is 3-4 hours and about that on the return. It is 12 miles after all! We arrived back at the car at 6:30 PM and headed back to Seattle.
|Best Time to Hike|
|June through October|
|Hike Time||Difficulty||Rating||Distance||Elevation Gained||Max Elevation|
|9 Hours||12.0 Miles Round Trip||4,500 Feet||7,766 Feet|
|Miles Away||User Rating|
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|Lat: 46.813930000, Long: -121.305470000|
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