Juniper Peak Summit Trail is a 5.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Randle, Washington that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
My husband and I took the Juniper Ridge Trail in early June. A strange year with little snowpack allowed our early trip. We were dissappointed with the trail, it is rutted and hard to hike in places, but the views and wildflowers made up for the poor trail.
Most high country trails in this area are packed and we were happy to have this trail to ourselves, aside from two groups on motorbikes that we passed.
This area gets rather dry towards the end of the season. We felt lucky to see lush green views with Beargrass, Paintbrush, Penstemon, Mariposa Lily, Lupine, Asters and Wild Carrot popping up everywhere we looked. there are not many places that offer such stunning views for the distance of this hike. We made it to Jumbo Peak and were rewarded with views of Mt. Rainier, St. Helens, Mt. Adams and even Mt. Hood!
We looked for goats but only saw their tracks. Next time, we plan to leave early to catch cooler weather, better light for photography and hopefully spot a few goats.
Juniper Ridge Trail #261 trailhead is on the right side of FR 2904 with moderate parking. Tongue Mountain trail #294 can be accessed from the same place but on the left side of the road.
Juniper Ridge Trail #261 is an OHV trail and rated Most Difficult, allowing for Motorcycles, Mountain Bikes, Horses and Hiking. And right from the get-go, its obvious. The trail starts out steep, with few minor reprieves. Since ATV's are not allowed and motorcycles are, it's not a foot-friendly trail with one deep rut in the center of the trail all the way to the top. Of course snow melt run-off adds to the rut near the top.
Not a sole was there when we started and saw only 2 others hiking the ridge while we were eating lunch from the summit of Juniper Peak. Hiking is either in the center of the rut (with feet never completely flat) or on top of the rut on either side if and when one presents itself. Near the 2 mile mark, you'll get your first view point. Lovely Mt. Adams. Go on a cloudless day to see the whole mountain. From this point you'll hike another 1.5 miles on a thinning forested ridge till you get to the timberline. You'll have a couple good views of your destination along the way .
Nearing the top we found parts of the trail covered with snow. Once past timberline, your on top at ridge level at approximately 5400 feet where you can explore the small peak left of the trail with views of Mt. Rainier to the north, Mt. Adams to the south-east and Mount St. Helens to the south-west. To your right, is the rocky cliff face of Juniper Peak.
Continue on the ridge around the base of Juniper Peak. Once at the backside of Juniper Peak, climb a couple hundred feet to the summit. Approximately 5611 feet in elevation. You'll have a 360 degree view from here of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mount St. Helens and Juniper Peak Ridge which runs North/South. Continue along the ridge for better views of Sunrise and Jumbo Peaks and others along the ridge.
We continued along the ridge for another 1/2 mile past a small peak and returned. Hiking back down the rutted trail proved to be somewhat difficult, however it went quick and hiking on the sides of the rut were easier. I rated this a 4 out of 5 simply because of the trail. The views were 5 stars!
Definitely go on a cloudless day for the best views, however, our partly cloudy day was still gorgeous! On cooler days, bring something to block the wind and cold.