The forecast said clear(ish) skies yesterday, so I made plans to check off a bucket list hike: Mount Pilchuck. Of course, this meant that the morning was full of cloudy skies and heavy rain. Despite being of the big names out here in the Pacific Northwest, Mount Pilchuck is far enough away from the city that it isn’t always overcrowded on the trail. The hike is less than 3 miles up, but comes with an elevation gain of almost 2500 feet and it has some of the most unique footpaths of any hike I’ve done so far.
The Drive There
The first five miles to the parking lot are very potholed and took a fair amount of maneuvering, although I’m sure a low clearance vehicle would be able to (slowly) make the drive up to the top. The last couple of miles are very well-paved and lead up to the gravel parking lot–there were only a handful of cars when we arrived around 8:30am.
Other things to note: This parking lot requires a Northwest Forest Pass, and it should be noted that there are no day passes available at the trailhead. The vault toilet at the parking lot is so clean!
The Hike to the Top
Since the forecast predicted clear skies, none of came prepared for the constant drizzle we met at Mount Pilchuck (hence the plastic bag/makeshift hood). The rain was heavy enough that we decided to wait it out in the car, but it was still raining when we started hiking. I’m not sure what the trail looks like on clear summer days, but when we started off the trail was completely covered by running water. A raincoat would have been wonderful, but I was thankful to have waterproof boots, particularly at the stream crossing near the beginning of the hike.
There isn’t much signage on this hike, but it wasn’t too hard to navigate the trail.This may not hold true in other weather conditions, especially if the trail is covered in any amount of snow. About a mile into the hike we reached a large rocky hill, but the trail goes left and is easy to follow once you get to the forested area. From here, the path switches back up to the top, getting steeper and steeper until you reach the lookout at the top. There wasn’t much to see when we were at the peak, but it was a lot of fun to take a break inside the lookout and enjoy a break before heading back down.
It was a lot harder on the knees and the feet on the hike back, and a lot of the hikers we saw had trekking poles. The rocks are sharp, slippery and cold and I would highly suggest gloves and good traction if you decide to hike Mount Pilchuck in autumn. There are lots of huckleberries (or wild blueberries?) and salmon berries along the trail–the salmon berries are too tart, but the huckleberries were delicious! We passed a girl who asked us if the berries were edible, and when we said that they were, her response was, “That’s good, because I’ve been eating them!”
This hike is so neat! The rocks and the sandy trail are much different than anything I’ve ever seen. I really want to go back on a clear day when the mountains are visible and the trail isn’t such a river. I would rate this hike a solid 7/10, even in the weather we had yesterday!