Purcell Mountain Trail is a 17 mile out and back trail located near Randle, WA that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, horses, and mountain biking and is accessible from June until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
This strenuous, multiple switch back trail gets you to the top of Purcell mountain if you're willing to devote your time and a lot of effort into it. From the top of Purcell, you can go right to Whale Back mountain or left of Grassy (both local names). Beautiful, untouched, seldom traveled, steep mountain meadows dotted with trickling waterfalls. Look out for wildlife as black bears are frequently seen enjoying the bear grass at the top.
Yesterday, I hiked the Purcell Lookout Trail #285. The hike starts on unmarked, overgrown and not drivable FR6310 where it meets Purcell Lookout Trail #285 after ¾ mile. It’s on the west side of the road and easily missed. I drove past it about a mile where snow stopped me. Sparse parking only allows one, maybe two vehicles.
The hike starts on FR6310 with a somewhat discernable trail through the grass. This soon becomes more overgrown but direction of travel and orange tape indicate the way. Someone marked the trail with orange tape. MANY THANKS to this person. The tape makes route finding easy which comes in handy at higher elevations.
Soon you’ll ford Davis Creek which was quite raging this time of year. It’s somewhat wide and the other end is a doable 10-15ft climb up the bank. Look for orange tape to mark the way. Hike this overgrown FR6310 for about ¾ following orange tape if need be til the signed junction of Purcell Lookout Trail #285. This is where the switchbacks start. The switchbacks are lightly traveled but discernable and orange tape marks the way. There are a couple long switchbacks in the beginning but soon they get closer together. Some views of Mt. Adams, Pompey Peak, Tower Rock and others can be seen through the trees.
Snow started at the 3900ft level and became almost constant at the 4000ft level. There were some breaks in the snow that were much welcomed but they become shorter as you gain elevation. Follow orange tape. Now the trail is covered by snow but direction of travel and thankfully orange tape mark the way. Old blowdowns block the trail and at times become heavy. This especially obscures direction of travel and coupled with heavier snow makes it easy to lose the trail. Yet there is still orange tape to follow. Sometimes tape takes you off trail around the obstruction. However, do not rely on the orange tape. There were some times where the tree the tape was on was crushed by blowdowns or snow. Be confident in your route finding during these times.
At 4300ft I stopped for lunch and turned around, 600ft from the top. Too much snow and too many blowdowns. Funny how when traveling in the opposite direction on the same trail route finding is different even easier.
While overgrown in the beginning, and snow and blowdowns near the top, this was still a great hike and was only moderately difficult. It will become even easier in late June or mid-July.
I wrote the overview for this trail. I've hike up this mountain probably 6 times with my dad. My dad even created his own trail (0.87 miles in 2700 ft elevation gain) up to Grassy and I'm pretty sure he and I are the only ones crazy enough to hike it in the middle of winter. The actual Purcell trail is a seemingly endless line of switch backs but once on the ridge, you merely hike to the left at the Y and greeted to large open meadows. Like I said, watch for black bears! In the 5 times I've been up here, I've seen a black bear 3.