Winter (and summer too) hikes off I90
(These also make excellent year round trail runs)
Take the wonderful new trail 4+ miles to the summit if snow free. In the winter you might need yaktraks, microspikes or even crampons. (or possibly an ice axe). Fantastic views from treeline.
Take exit 34 from I-90. Head north on 468th Ave SE for approximately half a mile until the intersection with the SE Middle Fork Road. Turn right onto the Middle Fork Road. Follow SE Middle Fork Road 2.2 miles to the stop sign at the junction with SE Dorothy Lake Road. Head left onto SE Middle Fork Road and drive .3 miles. Take the turnoff to the trailhead on the right and continue a short distance to the parking lot.
This is a harder winter hike, one that often features a slick path up high. We definitely bring traction devices. It has nice views in all directions, including of Mount Rainier. This hike is eight miles round trip with 3,200 feet of elevation gain. We perk up this hike by going up and down the Old Mount Si Trail, from the Little Si parking lot, a route that has far less traffic. It also gives you a better workout (six to seven miles and 3,400 feet of elevation).
There’s also a nice loop you can make, off the regular Mount Si trail. It’s the Talus Loop trail (4.5 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain). It’s a trail that doesn’t get much traffic. You get a nice lunch spot, on the talus, with views to the east and, sometimes, sunshine. A few places on this trail can be icy. This loop is a good choice when the weather around Mount Si is too windy or cold.
Drive I-90 to exit 32. Turn left onto 436th Ave SE. Follow 436th to its end at SE North Bend Way. Turn left. In three-tenths of a mile, turn right onto SE Mt. Si Road. Follow it 2.4 miles. Entrance to the trailhead will be on the left. A Discover Pass is required at trailhead
This hike is a four-mile round trip with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain. We perk it up by going first up the Boulder Garden Loop and then down to join the Little Si trail, for about six miles and 1,700 feet of elevation gain, putting us atop Little Si and its great views of Mount Si. A nice lunch spot.
Drive I-90 to exit 32. Turn left onto 436th Ave SE. Follow 436th to its end at SE North Bend Way. Turn left. In three-tenths of a mile, turn right onto SE Mt. Si Road. Follow it 2.2 miles. Entrance to the trailhead will be on the left. A Discover Pass is required at trailhead
Begin your hike on an old logging road and climb through young forest and meadows for two miles. Switchback at a slightly steeper incline for a further two miles, until you find yourself at a beautiful viewpoint of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie. Four miles in, the views become amazing, including the Cedar River Watershed, Rattlesnake Ledge and Ridge, as well as Mailbox Peak, and other peaks in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley.
Cross a creek, and a side trail angles off toward Mount Si. Stick to the road. 2 miles past the viewpoint, hikers stand below the summit in a broad saddle. Either stop here to enjoy the views, or leave the road for a half-mile trek along a bootpath leading up the ridge to the summit knoll.
The trailhead is located a mile past the Mount Si trailhead. Take I-90 to exit 32, head north, then left on North Bend Way. In less than half a mile you’ll see the turnoff for Mount Si Road on the right. Follow the road for about 3 miles, you’ll see the school bus turnaround on your left around 480th Ave SE. Park your car and head up the logging road.
West Rattlesnake trail, from Snoqualmie Point
You can hike all the way to Grand Prospect (round trip of 8.4 miles, with 2,200 feet of elevation gain). This hike can also be a snowline explorer on which your party goes only as high as snow and ice conditions allow. You get magnificent views of Mount Si and other peaks to the north and east and at Grand Prospect, plus views up the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. At the trailhead, there are two bathrooms and a paved lot with plenty of parking spaces. Exit 27 off I-90.
East Peak-Rattlesnake trail, from Rattlesnake Lake
This popular hike on the new trail goes to the lower, middle and upper Rattlesnake ledges, easily walkable in almost all conditions. Above the lower ledge, hiker traffic diminishes as you ascend. Very few folks go as high as the East Peak of Rattlesnake, which is a round trip of about seven miles, with a 2,400-foot elevation gain.
Exit 32 off I-90.
Squak Mountain, south side
This trailhead has a large parking lot, good signage, southern exposure and not much foot traffic. There are various trails up to the central and west peaks of Squak with mileages in the six- to seven-mile range and elevation gains approaching but usually not exceeding 2,000 feet. Depending on the route, there are Mount Rainier views and a glimpse of downtown Seattle and the Olympics.
Getting there: Just west of Issaquah, take Highway 900 south 4 miles to May Valley Road. Go east 2.5 miles to Squak Mountain State Park sign, on left.
West Tiger 3 trail
This hike can get crowded, what with 250,000 hikers up here annually. But there are lots of different routes to the top. The usual route is about five miles round trip with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Traction devices are usually needed above what is known as the Railroad Grade, at an altitude of about 2,000 feet (the top is at 2,500 feet). The Nook and Section Line trails are often quiet, since they’re steeper than the regular trail. Those with a Tiger Mountain map can find different ways to descend to the parking lot. Hikes on this side of West Tiger 3 are protected from south winds.
Exit 20 off I-90.
West Tiger 2 trail (and West Tiger 1) from East Highpoint
This hike offers steep elevation gain and a winding trail, but you rarely need traction devices. In case of crummy weather, take shelter at the Hikers Hut. This hike is about eight miles with more than 2,500 feet of elevation gain. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier and the Issaquah Alps.
Exit 20 off I-90, with parking near the white gate off I-90. (Due to logging and then blowdown from a windstorm, it’s no longer possible to go up West Tiger 1, so go up Trail 2 and then up Trail 1.)
South Tiger Mountain
This hike is better in winter than in summer and offers views of Seattle, the Olympics and the Cascades. There’s not much hiker traffic. We do it as a loop, which makes it more interesting, about seven miles and under 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Traction devices are rarely needed.
From Issaquah-Hobart Road, take Tiger Mountain Road to the trailhead.
Cougar Mountain via Big Tree Ridge
This short hike to Anti-Aircraft Peak on Cougar Mountain is on a well-made new trail, with picnic shelters on top, a bathroom, and views north to Lake Sammamish. About five miles and about 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Traction devices rarely needed.
Getting there: Newport Way trailhead, off State Highway 900 west of Issaquah.
Cougar Mountain from Wilderness Peak trailhead
This quiet trailhead allows access to Wilderness and Longview Peaks and Doughty Falls. There are many trail options. (Grab a map at the trailhead). These loops run about seven miles with about 1,800 feet of elevation gain. You rarely need traction devices.
Getting there: Off Highway 900, west of Issaquah.
Hiking can be dangerous at times. Here are five tips from the Washington Trails Association for going prepared and staying safe:
- Check the latest trail conditions: Read how others have fared when choosing a hike. Contact the local ranger station for current conditions.
- Let someone know where you’re going:Let them know your intended destination and when you plan to return, and update them if plans change.
- Pack the 10 Essentials:
• Topographic map
• Water and a way to purify it
• Extra food
• Rain gear and warm clothing
• Fire starter and matches
• Sun protection
• First-aid kit
• Flashlight and extra batteries
An emergency shelter, hiking poles, ice ax and snowshoes are also worth considering, depending on the season and where you’re going.
- Watch the weather forecast: Conditions can change minute by minute. Don’t force a hike. If the conditions aren’t right, save it for another day.
- Beware of hunters: Wear orange clothing and make noise while you hike if you’re traveling in hunting zones during hunting season.
- Leave no trace