A March hike for the itchy-footed
Veteran Northwest hiker Karen Sykes visits a hill-climbing hike near Enumclaw.
Special to The Seattle Times
We're in that betwixt-and-between season when restless hikers are transitioning back from snowshoe routes and looking for snow-free hikes that will get the heart pumping. Pinnacle Peak, on the edge of Enumclaw, is typically snow-free in March, and worth a visit.
This popular destination could be considered Enumclaw's version of Mount Si if you hiked to the summit three times the same day. From the north trailhead (Cal Magnusson Trail) it is a 1,000-foot climb — once is sufficient for most.
First known as Mount Pete, its name was changed to Mount Peak, and later, Pinnacle Peak. It's OK to call the peak "Pete," as it is an old friend to many, including the late guidebook author Harvey Manning, who referred to it as the largest "Enumclaw Blob" rising above flatlands created by the Osceola mudflow.
In the early 1980s "Pete" was known mostly to locals as a peaceful place to walk, get exercise and admire the columnar basalt below the summit and remains of a lookout on top. The best views are from a plateau just below the summit.
We hardly recognized "Pete" on our recent visit. The park has grown as we have aged, acquiring acreage and new trailhead on its south side. The trail hosted a stream of hikers — couples, solo hikers, mountaineers-in-training with bulging packs, families with dogs and/or children and sleek runners pounding up the trail. It's hardly a place to be alone — but that's OK. The pleasure of this place is contagious and everyone was merry.
The north trail honors Cal Magnusson, a longtime mountaineer who worked at REI with Jim Whittaker. The hike begins on a forested trail that climbs to an old road where the route continues toward the summit. The woodsy road-trail is nicely graded and scenic; at higher elevations large boulders appear among old-growth trees and moss grows everywhere it can.
Below the summit the trail skirts columnar basalt, partially screened by ferns. The formations hint of a violent, geological past (Pinnacle Peak is an old volcanic cone). On the summit (1,763 feet), find the remains of a lookout dismantled in the 1960s, and benches where you can settle awhile.
We've not hiked the south trail; it's purportedly an easier route and open to mountain bikers. That route climbs to a mossy bench (1,250 feet) below the summit, with views of the White River valley, the town of Buckley and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier and even the Olympics. From the north it's a short descent from the summit to the plateau where the road from the south trailhead comes in.
To get there: Cal Magnusson Trail — From Enumclaw drive .8 mile east on Highway 410, turn right onto 284th Street, continue 1.5 miles and turn right on Southeast 472nd Street. In about a half-mile find the trailhead and privy (on the left). Roadside parking. South trail — The south trailhead is at the gate on Mud Mountain Road Southeast/481st Street Southeast. Roadside parking.
Stats: Two miles round-trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Map: Green Trails No. 237, Enumclaw.
More information: King County Parks, 206-296-8687 or www.kingcounty.gov/recreation/parks/trails/backcountry/pinnaclepeak.aspx
Karen Sykes of West Seattle is a veteran Northwest outdoorswoman and a leader of hikes with The Mountaineers.
This article was altered on Friday, March 11. An earlier version included a description of a hike on Baldy Hill. That portion of the article was removed when The Seattle Times learned that the summit of Baldy Hill, which was included in the hike, is on private property and public access is not allowed.