Old Snowy Mountain Climber's Trail is a 9.1 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Randle, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October.
Perched halfway between Rainier and Adams, this offers great views of both. Depending on the time of year, water sources are limited once you hit the PCT from the Snowgrass Flat area and not much shade either. It's a nontechnical scramble up a rocky trail to reach the summit.
This hike is a solo day hike to Old Snowy via Snowgrass Trail 96, the PCT, an alternate trail to Old Snowys summit and the horse route back to the PCT to make a small loop at the end for 16.8 miles RT that took 9.5 hrs counting stops. Max Elevation: 7930ft, Elevation Gain: Approximately 4500ft. The posted track is one way, so Elevation Gain is just a guess.
I started at the Snowgrass Trail 96 TH on the Saturday after Labor Day and at 9am there was still parking. However when I got back 9hrs later the TH was packed but still some parking at the end.
For the amount of traffic, the trail is in good condition and quite level for the first couple miles, climbing a bit beyond the Bypass Trail 97 junction and a bit more to the Lily Basin Trail 86 junction at Snowgrass Flats. This junction can be somewhat confusing as scramble trails to campsites intersect the junction and you’ve got a few directions to choose from. Lily Basin is clearly marked on the left. The PCT is not. If heading to the PCT continue straight, following Snowgrass Trail 96 for .8 miles. From Snowgrass on, the vistas are beautiful and don’t stop. If you plan on staying at Snowgrass Flats, some campsites are out of view. Use scramble trails to access them.
Continue straight on Snowgrass Flats Trail 96 to the Jct of the PCT with vistas of Old Snowy and Ives Peak ahead and Mt. Adams and Mount St. Helens to your right and behind you. Now with vistas everywhere, turn left and follow the PCT for 1.8 miles. The trail is distinctive, however cairn’s mark the way. Bring extra water for this section as there are no good water sources. There are a number of campsites along the way to choose from if overnighting here. At one point I thought someone was whistling but later found out it was marmots. Those suckers are loud. Mt. Rainier soon comes into view behind Goat Lake/Hawkeye Point. Then you’ll cross a small snow patch near the Old Snowy junction, marked by a large cairn. The signed junction is a couple hundred feet to the right of the Cairn.
If continuing on the PCT keep left at the signed junction. Turn right and follow the PCT Alternate route to Old Snowy. Aside from a small snow patch in the beginning, the route is easily discerned among the rocks. Once on a ridge take in the view, not quite 360 degrees yet since Old Snowy is in the way and choose to scramble up Old Snowy or turn left to take the alternate route back to the PCT. Follow the scramble trail to the summit. The scramble trail is easily discerned in the beginning and can get confusing later on. Trekking poles become more difficult to use after this and nearing the top requires both hands. Trekking poles are best put away so they don’t get dropped. The path disappears near the top and a few small routes can be picked. Choose the right side and pay attention to loose rocks with each step until you reach the top.
Now a 360 degree view, there is room enough for about 6 people plus a small bivy spot. The view is stunning! Everything can be seen. Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Goat Lake/Hawkeye Point, Tieton Peak, Packwood Lake and The PCT/The Knife to name a few. Have a snack, take pictures and return to the ridge and go back to the PCT the way you came or continue straight for .4 miles on the Alternate PCT trail down toward The Knife , then turn left on the Horse Route for .4 miles back to the PCT. Head back the way you came.
This makes for a long day hike but well worth the time and effort! Bring extra water and snacks for the day. Extend this hike one day and overnight at Snowgrass Flats or on the PCT and take your time, relax and enjoy.
Miss Hiker P.
Backpacked to the Alpine camp off the Snowgrass flats trail and day hiked to old snowy. Good patch of snow just below the saddle, and had to glissade down. I really found the trail trail very easy. However, I hike every weekend. Load up on water . Not too many opportunities for water once you hit the PCT. So load up.