Hike description: This trail has variety. First, there are two choices for trailheads. This week's description has you start at the lower trailhead but there is an option to drive farther up the road and start at the upper trailhead. Starting at the upper trailhead changes the stats; the trip becomes 4.4 miles round-trip with 2,244 feet of elevation gain. The views at the top remain the same, whichever route you take.
The trail wanders through forest, subalpine meadows and ends with an alpine peak with magnificent views. In addition to the views of Puget Sound and Hood Canal, on a clear day you can see as far as Mount Adams. The peaks of the Olympic Mountains are your backdrop, and what a backdrop it is. The steepness of this trail might make it difficult for families or beginning hikers. For more experienced hikers this is a must-experience trail.
Directions: Take U.S. 101 to Hoodsport. Turn west (away from the water) on to Lake Cushman Road At 9.3 miles turn right onto Forest Service Road 24, then in 1.6 miles, left onto Big Creek Road (Forest Road 2419). At 4.8 miles come to the lower trailhead where this hike description has you start. But, you can get to the upper trailhead by continuing on Road 2419 for another 1.6 miles to a junction. At the junction turn left on Forest Road 2419-014 and drive one mile to the upper trailhead.
Difficulty rating: 4 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
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Miles round-trip: 7.2
Elevation: 3,244 feet
Best time of year: July to October
Map: Green Trails No. 167 Mt. Steel and No. 168 The Brothers
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
Also: Resist the temptation to lighten your pack for the ascent. Extra clothing is important when you take a break and start to rapidly cool down, as well as in the event that the clouds roll in and the sun goes on hiatus. Practice Leave No Trace travel and pack out your trash. Carry enough water and food to support the effort you’ll put out on this trail.
Info: Contact ranger station for current trail and road conditions. Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal District – Quilcene Office 360-765-2200, www.fs.fed.us/r6/olympic/index.shtml; “Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula,” Mountaineers Books.