Silver Peak, Mt. Baker National Forest-Snoqualmie Trip Report
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August 23, 2003
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Driving Directions: Drive I-90 east from Snoqualmie Pass 2 miles and go off on Hyak Exit 54. Turn right and then left into the large Pacific West Hyak ski area parking lot. Halfway through the lot, go left on a road obscured signed "Hyak Estates Division 3 and 4." Pass houses and go to the right of the wastewater treatment plant; here the way becomes road No. 9070. at 3.3 miles from I-90 is Cold Creek trail No. 1013, signed "Twin Lakes." Elevation 3029 feet. Stay on 9070 another 2 miles to the Pacific Crest Trail at Windy Pass, 3820 feet. You will know you are there when you gain the ridge and see the Pacific Crest Trail signed on the left side of the road.
Trail Notes: The trail starts out in what was a clear-cut about 15 years ago though you only hike through this second growth for about 15 minutes. Once through the second growth the trees become very large for this elevation. The trail itself is quite pleasant gradually gaining elevation while providing occasional views to the East. There are several streams along the way which can provide water and also provide an opportunity to test your stream crossing skills. If you come during the early part of summer when there is still snow melting off the hills some of these stream especially the first you cross at about 20 minutes can be tricky to cross. Probably best to make sure you bring a change in footwear so if the crossing is deep you can still get across and enjoy dry feet!
After a while you start crossing some avalanche chutes which offer views of Tinkham peak to the South East. Just past this there are some alpine meadows with a view up above to the North of the ridge leading up to Silver Peak. And yes as you look up at the rocky cliffs you will be climbing up along there. Which means that somewhere along the line you are going to be gaining some elevation! The trail continues past the alpine meadows up and views of Twins Lakes below can occasionally be had.
Shortly thereafter the trail loses a bit of elevation on a series of switchbacks to go around some steep rocks. This section can be particularly tricky to navigate when there is snow present. The first time I was to Silver Peak in Early June with snow still present this section confounded me for about 15 minutes until I could find my way around the rocks. Look for chain sawed logs! With this decent behind you again one gains the elevation back again with a bit more vigor entering an exposed Eastern slope. After crossing this open slope along a traverse you enter a relatively flat area whose prominent feature is a view up close of Tinkham Peak and a large stream which is the headwaters of Twin Lakes.
It is at this point that the trail forks between Silver Peak and Tinkham Peak. Finding the trail to Silver Peak at this section can be difficult especially if there is snow. When I was here in June we simply traveled to the Southwest towards the saddle between Tinkam and Silver Peaks. Simple enough, but the slope is at an ideal angle for avalanches so be careful. During this hike I again pretty much let my nose lead me towards the saddle. There are a several trails, and I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them. We wound up selecting more of a deer trail on the way up having lost the main trail...and not being too concerned about it. Eventually the trail we selected converged with the main trail in a gully that during the runoff apparently has quite a bit of water flowing through it. This section depending on the route selected can be fairly steep though not too bad.
After about 20-30 minutes you will gain the ridge itself which is a alpine meadows environment. At the ridge there the trail goes one of two ways. One way leads towards Tinkham Peak (I assume it takes you to the top, but haven't traveled that route) the other leads towards Silver Peak. The goings here are quite nice and shortly offer views back down into the saddle from whence you have just come as well as views of Rainier. The view just keep getting better. This is one of those areas where the views just keep getting better with every step. After meandering along the ridge traverse there is a short steep section almost requiring the use of hands to climb (It's fun!). After that it is a pleasant 15 minutes of so across alpine meadows towards the now visible rocky slopes of silver peak. You can make out what appears to be the trail switch backing up the ridge. As you near the rock you become more aware that there really isn't a trail in the traditional sense just an area where boots have worn away the lichens and oxidation from the rocks.
The climb up the rocks is tiring but at the same time is a great place to stop and enjoy the views. It is at this point that views of Annette Lake begin and blueberries seem to be everywhere. Once cresting the first false summit there is a traverse along the Eastern slope offering a view down into the valley from where you started. Now you are on the rocks that I mentioned looking up to from the trail below. Almost there.
Now the last hurdle is ahead of you what is the last climb to the top of Silver Peak. There is a trail leading up and the going is quite steep requiring the use of hands in places on the way up and facing the rock on the way down to be safe. It isn't difficult, but care should be taken to ensure a safe descent. This section takes about 10-15 minutes to gain and then you are at the top. Whatever you do don't stop! Once you have made it to the top the rewards are very good offering a 360 degree view of the surroundings. Very nice view point and an excellent place to chill out, have lunch and enjoy the mountain silence. As a final note doing this hike in the early season can be tricky since the aspect of the slope doesn't get much light and retains snow longer than surrounding areas. Just keep that in mind, this hike is probably best done in late August or early September.
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A "Just Right" Classic
Reviewed By: Tom_C on Monday, September 14, 2009 @ 10:27:42 PM
A cascade classic, the real treats begin when you gain the ridge and start up toward the summit. On a hot day, the all the breezes that flow through the pass tend to carress this ridge (hence the name of nearby windy pass) making even the brightest of sunny days a delightfully pleasant experience. I did this hike repeatedly over the 2009 summer as a way to train for longer day hikes, adding additional challenges each time. On a bright sunny day, the views are spectacular... I spent nearly an hour on the summit just looking around. You can see everything from here (Even Mt Daniel and Cathedral rock halfway up to Steven's Pass). I decided that the summit would be a great place to hole up and read: note to self. The hike itself isn't that long (for what you get anyway). Do it in the early morning and you still have a great day ahead of you. The scramble to the top was also a perfect sample taste to discover alpine scrambling... this hike serves as a bridge between groomed trail treks to more rocky adventures involving hands and feet. And if you like it, there are plenty of Cascades to suit your fancy.
On a more "Seattle Grey" day, the top was engulfed in a cloud, making the whole experience bizarrely mysterious. Whisps of cloud traveled over the ridge but leaving a 10 foot "air bubble" of non-cloud directly over the mountain... just enough to see up the slope in front of you. On that the wind was a bit more biting up at the top, but it was easy to find a nook on the north (leeward) side and hole up for a game of Blockus. (Yes, my friend and I brought a travel board game to the top).
I also did the trail at night once to catch a meteor shower, and pitched tent up on the saddle near the summit. (Not sure if you're supposed to do that...). In any case, the view of Rainier on a cool crisp morning, surrounded by a valley of fog with the peaks jutting out of it like boats in a bay. Spectacular.
All in all, this is a great introductory hike for people who don't have a ton of hiking experience but really love the outdoors. You're sure to leave falling a little more in love.
Wait for Maintenance
Reviewed By: Red Racer on Monday, July 23, 2007 @ 05:11:26 PM
This trail is in desperate need of maintenance. We started at the beginning of Gold Creek Trail (about 3.5mi from the off ramp). The bushes beside the trail were overgrown but the trail was still passable. Thank goodness for quick drying pants.
Shortly after we got to the lakes and crossed over the log bridge we ran into heavy brush along the trail. It was over our heads and made the trail extremely difficult to navigate. We turned around and hiked up the other trail by the campground to the road and tried to catch the PCT at Windy Pass but we couldn't find the trail head. Everything was too overgrown.
We plan to return when the trail has been cut back to check out the views. A few sections of the road to the PCT trail head have been washed out. A four wheel vehicle is recommended. You will need repellant for large mosquitoes.
Reviewed By: Michael W. on Sunday, August 13, 2006 @ 08:29:22 PM
Review: We did a night hike on August 12th for the Perseid meteor showers. We arrived at the PCT trailhead at about 9pm. I can't stress enough how important the hike descriptions were for this hike. There at least 4 different occasions we thought we were on the wrong tail, only to come across something someone had described. We too missed the first cairn on the way up, but came back the other way and found it when we met up with the PCT again, but in our defense it was dark. =) Keep your eye out for the first cairn after a large rock fall area, in the woods.
We didn't go all the way up, we just made the meadowed ridge and settled down for some stargazing. We stuck around for an hour or so, then packed up and headed down. We made it down in about an hour at a pretty good clip and were back at our cars by 2. It was a good night hike and the trail was well maintained on the PCT. I can't wait to do it in the day light and make it all the way to the peak.
Reviewed By: bertman4 on Tuesday, August 8, 2006 @ 11:13:53 AM
I did this hike on Sat Aug 5, 2006. Once you hit the gravel road past the water treatment plant, there are a couple of splits. I didn't see any signs on which road was which, but kept going uphill and found the PCT junction. There were two other cars there when I started at 9:20AM. It was sunny and windy, almost chilly. I quickly warmed up and passed two ladies that had started before I got my boots on. The slight elevation loss from the switchback was annoying but what can you do? I missed the first side trail to Silver Peak. I must not have noticed the stack of stone in the shade. I did catch the second one with the cairn in the open. Quickly gained altitude, got into the meadows and could admire where I was going. About this time the mosquitoes started to attack and I had no repellent. Ouch! The nice wind did nothing to dissipate these critters. I kept moving, gained the first hump then went on to the actual peak. Near the top I ended up going around the right and had to scramble to gain the top. What a great view. Took photos and cracked open my lunch while fighting off the mosquitoes. Then these flying ants (?) started to swarm around me. They don't bite so I tried to ignore them, but once they started to fly into my mouth when I was trying to take a bit of my sandwich, I knew it was time to go. Descending, I followed the well traveled trail and came out of the side trail I was supposed to take. I met 1 person at the peak, passed 1, 3, 1, and 2 people going to the peak, and saw 2, 3, 8 people heading towards Mirror Lake. Ascent was 2 hr 40 minutes, 20 minute break at the top, and descent was 1 hr 20 minutes. I'm 39 year old male in good shape. I consumed only a liter of water, probably due to the cool air and wind keeping my temperature down.
Reviewed By: cgstine33 on Sunday, July 16, 2006 @ 08:47:58 PM
Review: this was a great hike! it is well worth the difficulty finding the trailhead and the slow build-up. couple of notes of interest: there was little snow on the trail when we were there, but you will have to depend upon several cairns to find your way up. most notably, watch for the split from the mirror lake pacific coast trail as you pop out of the forest. it is a sharp right stright up the mountain towards silver peak. it was very clearly marked for us, but if moving at a fast pace, you could miss it. there are about two more small cairns after this point. if you keep your eyes on the peak, you will be sure to understand where they are pushing you. and oh baby, once you get past the scramble up what felt like a sheer cliff, it is one of the best views i have had hiking in a long time. mt rainier was as clear ass i have ever seen it. getting to the peak requires caution and sure footing, but many a young child and dog were seen making it all the way up. i highly recommend this hike as a gorgeous, vigorous day-hike. at a fast pace you will be up and down in about 5-6 hours.
A great hike, but wait until August!
Reviewed By: ryan on Saturday, July 1, 2006 @ 03:16:45 PM
Review: This is a beautiful hike, with smaller crowds because it is not the easiest trailhead to find or access even though it is close to Seattle. But wait until August! I tried it out last weekend (June 20ish) and about a third of the way up the trail was entirely covered in snow. It was welcome coolness on an exceptionally hot day, but we lost the trail and it became impassible near where we imaging the scramble part of the hike begins. We'll be back in a few weeks though!
It's definitely not a 12 mile hike -- although saying its feasibile afterwork is pushing it. I'd say about 3 up and 2 down, although remember we were on snow and had to turn back before the top.
Reviewed By: John Munyan on Monday, August 22, 2005 @ 09:56:47 PM
Review: Good catch there was a problem with the database - thanks for pointing the missing.
cloudy and wet
Reviewed By: Eli on Saturday, October 23, 2004 @ 10:19:49 PM
Review: A few cars around the trailhead. The only people we ended up seeing was a Boy Scout troupe, on a hike from Mirror Lake and back.
The hike starts on a section of the Pacific Coast Trail. Last Sunday it was cloudy down to the ground, and drizzling. The trail crossed many streams, and often was a stream itself. Saw baaaby salal, vine-maple leaves turned scarlet, and huge soggy mushrooms.
There are two trails up from the PCT to the ridge. Neither shows up on the maps I've seen. The first is the disused Gardiner trail. Our guidebook called this turnoff unmissable, but we missed it. The second goes up from the small pond, and is marked by a small cairn on the right. We took that. It was a bit steep, and slippery with mud, up to the saddle of the ridge.
Coming down, we deviated from the way we'd come up, took what we think was the Gardiner down to the PCT, and saw why we'd missed it on the way up -- it's just a small stream. We stepped over dozens of those. It didn't seem like any better a trail than the other way up, but if you'd like to try it, when you find a rock on the PCT that's a rough cube a foot or so in size, head up that streambed. It merges with the other trail quite soon.
On the ridge there's a crossing of trails; we took the right turn, up along the east side of the ridge, through mixed alpine meadow. One nice little hands-and-feet bit, then through more meadow to what in the cloud looked like an infinite upward slope of talus. The track of feet was well pressed into it.
We soon reached a patch of trees, a first false summit, where we turned around. Heavy rain with small hail on the way down. By this time we were all more or less wet where contact with our packs worked water through, and cold. Nothing was quite waterproof enough. About those smooth logs inlaid aslant across the trail -- watch your step when they're wet.
We came out of the I-90 tunnel to Seattle, and found a rainbow behind us. We got home to bright sun. Sheesh.
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