HIKE DESCRIPTION: Soon the road to the top of Mount Walker will be open to cars and this scenic hike will be a little more crowded. But, for now, hikers can find a little solitude.
This hike is ideal for people looking for good views and a place to get in a spring workout while higher peaks are still covered with snow. The top of Mount Walker is 2,804 feet above sea level. The trail is steep at times. The Olympic National Forest website says grades are as steep as 25 percent. But the trail eases off toward the top.
Rhododendrons weren’t in bloom when we hiked this trail in early March, but they should soon add color to this hike.
The trail deposits hikers on the north summit. The view here is impressive, but having come this far, don’t leave without making the easy walk to the south summit. The reward is even more impressive views of Hood Canal.
To reach the South Summit, follow the road. A sign for uphill vehicle traffic will point the way. A short trail to the viewpoint is marked as wheelchair accessible, but only when the road allows driving to this point. It is 1.2 miles round-trip between the north and south summits. After enjoying the view, return the way you came or, for those looking for a longer walk or a more gradual descent, you can hike down the road.
DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Highway 101, find Mount Walker Road north of milepost 300. The trailhead is about 0.25 miles beyond the gate. Park at the gate if it is closed and walk up the road to the well-marked trailhead on the right.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 3 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 5.4 to visit the north and south summits.
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,200 feet to visit the north and south summits.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.
PASS: None. A Northwest Forest Pass is not required for this hike.
ALSO: Mount Walker is the only peak facing Puget Sound with a road and trail to the summit, according to Olympic National Forest. Olympic National Forest has not yet announced an opening date for Mount Walker Road. Dogs are permitted as long as long they are on leashes. A vault toilet is at the summit. Information about avoiding and surviving cougar encounters is posted at the trailhead. The trail is part of the Audubon’s Great Washington State Birding Trail. There are several geocaches hidden on Mount Walker, including ones at each of the summits. See geocaching.com for information.
Visit thenewstribune.com/outdoors for video from several trails.