Mt. Si: My first PNW hike

Today was the first time I got to go hiking here in the Pacific Northwest!  I have in fact been quite busier than I expected, so I haven’t had time to hit the trails.  Today’s hike, however, was much needed.  I decided to hike Mt. Si.  I had heard about it, and it seemed pretty simple to get to from Seattle.  I also don’t have any maps or guidebooks for the area yet, so I wanted to choose a hike that didn’t require much trail navigation.  Mt. Si fit the bill. Mt. Si lies on the western side of the Cascade Range, rising to 4,167 feet.

Mt. Si is supposedly one of the most popular hikes in the area.  They say it gets over 100,000 visitors a year.  It is clear to see why.  First, its proximity to Seattle and I-90 is extremely convenient.  Second, it’s sort of a mid range hike, suitable for many skill levels.  Third, the views are excellent.  Even the $11 dollar fee to park at the trailhead (using a Discover Pass) doesn’t scare people away.

switchback along Mt. Si trail
switchback along Mt. Si trail

It is clear that the trail is well used, as it is wide and well packed.  If you like switchbacks, there are plenty along the Mt. Si trail.  I’m not so used to switchbacks.  Despite there being some in the Southern Apps, I’d been living in New Hampshire the past four months, so switchbacks seemed just a figment of my imagination.  The switchbacks along this trail were nice, creating a sustainable high-use trail with a pleasant grade.  There were no “power steps” up any big boulders, like there are in New Hampshire.  I’m curious if the grade and trail design is reminiscent of the rest of trails in the Cascades.

pine forest
pine forest

On the way up, the surroundings are mostly pine and fir forest, with limited views.  In fact, there is a Douglas Fir along the way that is over 350 years old.  However, once you get to the top, you are rewarded with spectacular and varied views.  From Mt. Si, you are offered views of the colonized valley, Seattle in the distance with the Olympics behind, the Cascade Mountains, and of course, the big one, Mt. Rainier.  I stayed on the summit for an hour and half, soaking in the views and getting acquainted with the mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest.

Mt. Rainier in the clouds
Mt. Rainier in the clouds

In fact, the true summit of Mt. Si is at the top of a rock feature called “The Haystack.”  Topping out on the Haystack requires a somewhat sketchy rock scramble up the backside.  Definitely not one of the safest things I’ve ever done, but exercising caution makes this a very do-able rock scramble in good weather.  From the top of the Haystack, you get 360 degree views.  The Haystack also seems reminiscent of many Cascade mountains tops, sharp and jagged.

The Haystack
The Haystack
The Haystack scramble
The Haystack scramble

Hiking Mt. Si was a great time, and despite its popularity, I had it mostly to myself the whole day.  It was right within the range I was hoping to hike, about 8 miles.  The views were spectacular.  This was a great first hike to get me into a Pacific Northwest groove, and I can’t wait to hike some more!

On the summit
On the summit
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One thought on “Mt. Si: My first PNW hike

  1. Sounds great! Makes me think of my Rainier climb 30 years ago. Some of my fondest memories — despite being a Southeasterner — involve the Olympic Peninsula and the area around Rainier. Stay vertical, keep walking and read THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story.

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