Did Old Trail on the way up and New Trail on the way down today. I got to the parking lot at 10am and the trailhead or parking wasn't overly crowded.
The Old Trail is certainly a beast! It's basically a 2+ hour forested staircase. The trail was easy to follow until about 3000ft where it gets covered by falling pines and leaves. Luckily the white diamond trail markers are well placed and easy to follow. Once the Old Trail meets the New Trail it's pretty straight forward from there although still very steep and challenging. The boulder field is quite a sight! I was able to beat the weather by hiking in the morning but once you arrive at the boulder field the rest of the trail is quite exposed so dress accordingly and be prepared.
I had a horrible experience on the New Trail on the way down. Going up had me pretty cooked so I thought I would try the New Trail down to give my legs and knees a bit of a rest. I was exhausted and found the New Trail to be horrendously long! Honestly it's way longer than it needs to be. The switchbacks are extremely long and sometimes even head back uphill. My GPS had died so I didn't know how far I had to go and was tormented by the length of that trail! It IS however a beautiful, well-built trail. Kudos to the forest service. It's just longer than it needs to be.
Super challenging hike!! But absolutely worth it once you reach the peak. Get your workout in on the way up using the old trail, it's the ONLY way to go. And protect your precious knees on the descent by taking the new trail.
I've never ever had any issues with my knees until I decided to take the old trail back down. Holy cow, my knees were in so much pain! It was quite a shocker... maybe my knees aren't as healthy as I thought they were or maybe descending down the old trail is just not a natural thing to do. Whichever the case, if you opt to old trail it down, take it slooooow.
First post on Alltrails, drawn by some misinformation in the reviews.
The reviewers saying this is 11 - 12 miles round trip think so because they sway back and forth, zig and zag, and otherwise don't hike directly. It is particularly easy to do on this route as well because the trail is not always established, switchbacks tend to come and go throughout the season and it can be very tiring which leads to meandering. If you clocked 12.5 miles, sorry but you made it harder on yourself :)
It is 7.2 miles if you walk in a perfectly straight line from trailhead to trailhead and that's how all trails work. https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1378768231 -- that's the closest I can get on an old trail ascent and new trail descent. Clearly not 12 miles --- and that would be true even if this were parking lot to parking lot. Another mile at most.
One of the steepest non-scramble established ridge line routes in the I-90 corridor. Walk directly east up the straight portion on ascent via old trail. If you descend via old trail, follow the ridge line back down due west. Do not turn north. If descending via new, just follow the very clear moderately graded trail. A lot of people needed SAR on this trail in 2016 because they weren't prepared. Compass. At least one person was airlifted after falling on the final ascent as well. I don't know how they managed to do that but it's possible apparently.
Did this in March 2016, a little rainy but the tree cover helps with that. Was freezing and cloud covered at the top! Went up the old trail and down the new trail! awesome, steep hike up! Nice relief on knees to go down the newer trail. It was a cloudy day so can't say how the views were.
This is an awesome challenging hike!
Mostly tree foliage for the first 1.5 miles. Perfect if you are training for Rainier Climb. Towards the top you will be going over tons of tree roots.
Make sure you pay attention to white diamond trail markers on the trees! It can be very easy to go off trail
Once you have exited the trees through a series of switchbacks you will get to the rocky terrain and start to see the I-90 corridor behind you. The last 0.5 miles is steep rocky terrain.
At the top is a famed mailbox with a summit register if you wish to inscribe your name or put a parcel in !
On a clear day you will have great panoramic views of Middle Fork Valley, Issaquah Alps and Mt Rainier. Don’t forget to take a camera. I would recommend coming down the new trail as it is much easier on your knees.
Go early as this gets very busy especially over weekends and bring plenty of water.
Currently the road leading to the trail head parking lot is closed weekdays from Mon 12pm to Fri 12pm due to road works.
I am renaming this hike "Childbirth Peak", because I will have to forget the pain before I'll do it again. We summited well past dark tonight, in hopes of catching the meteor shower, but there was too much ambient light. If a hike ever made me doubt myself, it was this one. We went up the old trail and down the new, rehydrated a guy from France who was backpacking his toddler up AND down the old trail (she loved our sour patch kids candy), and I about puked at the top. We pushed it, going for time, lost track of the 'trail' about 2/3 up (those diamonds? Um yeah don't lose sight of those). Was it worth it? YES! Because now I know I am capable of more than I was yesterday.
Old trail up, with up being the operative word! Keep an eye out for the white trail blazes since it's often hard to tell if you are on the trail or making your own. The last push once you are out of the trees is amazing and quite difficult. Tons of wild flowers blanketing the hillside. There were still a fair amount of clouds at the top so I only saw Mt Rainier peeking through, but still well worth it. Enjoyed a sandwich and conversation with other hikers at the top. Took the new trail down, still steep with long switchbacks, so much easier on the quads. A fair amount of people, but all friendly. I do think some need to learn a little trail etiquette though - uphill hikers have the right-of-way and that was rarely given. I highly recommend hiking/trekking poles, especially if you are shorter since some of the steps can be pretty tall.
Great clean trail. A few things to keep in mind:
This trail is 11+miles out and back. It is not 7.2 miles as suggested in the app notes
The last half mile is hard. Maintain a Rhythm that allows for that tiring last leg.
The views at the top are great but cloud cover can really throw a blanket over everything.
Mailbox at the top is a cool thing. It was full of letters and stuff.
Take discovery pass with you.
New trail is further than 7.4. The Washington Trails association has it listed at 9.4 but all of our phones and an I watch had it around 11 for the round trip. Steep for the last .2 miles. *****currently closed on weekdays because they are working on the road up to the trail head.
Getting to the top is well worth it the pain of going down and the climb after the two trails merge which is a workout. I prefer the new Trail. Better views. And easier to follow, although longer. Old trail starts off pretty but then it's roots and more roots. Tough on the knees going down the old trail.