|Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens from the summit of Mount Rose|
Access: Good gravel road to trailhead, no pass required
Do you like hikes that take you to jaw-dropping views with minimal effort? If yes, don't do this hike. While the views at the summit of Mount Rose are good, they aren't exceptional for Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. What is exceptional is the trail's grueling 3500 feet of elevation gain in less than 3 miles from the trailhead to the summit. Hikers looking for an intense workout will find that Mount Rose fits the bill quite well; hikers who just want a view will regret not having just driven up to Hurricane Ridge. The peak offers decent views of Lake Cushman and the southern Olympic Peninsula as well as far views of three Cascade volcanoes, a reasonably satisfying reward for those who choose to subject themselves to the steep uphill.
I did this hike towards the tail end of the winter that wasn't- a year when the Olympic Peninusla got less than 10% of its average annual snowpack. In early March, the Olympic peaks are usually blanketed with snow; Mount Rose typically has snow well into May. When I hiked Mount Rose, I saw no snow on Rose or any of its surrounding peaks and a waterfall that usually flows until June had already run dry. While these factors made it possible for me to visit in March, it was also shocking that the weather was so abnormal.
I headed out from Seattle on a clear March morning, following I-5 south to Olympia and then taking US 101 north from Olympia to Hoodsport. At Hoodsport, I took the North Lake Cushman Road, which branched off to the left from US 101. I followed the road past Lake Cushman Resort to a T-intersection; here, the right fork led towards Mount Ellinor while the left headed towards the Staircase region of Olympic National Park. I followed the left fork to the west. The road soon became unpaved; I followed it slightly further until I came to the trailhead for Mount Rose, still in Olympic National Forest. I parked by the side of the road and decided to check out Lake Cushman first before beginning my long uphill hike.
A short descent brought me down to the shore of Lake Cushman, a natural lake that was later augmented in size by a hydroelectric dam. The waters of the lake were perfectly calm that morning and reflected both Mount Rose and Lightning Peak nearly perfectly.
|Cascading stream near the trailhead|
About a mile into the hike, I passed a wooden sign indicating that I had entered the Mount Skokomish Wilderness. From here forward, the trail became even steeper. Soon, the trail swung up onto a ridge and followed the ridge steeply up. A short spur trail on the left of the trail led to a stream where there is usually a small waterfall during the early season. However, the extremely low snowfall that winter meant that there was no snowmelt to feed the stream when I visited; thus, no waterfall.
|The never-ending uphill|
The views were very enjoyable: I could see up the North Fork Skokomish Valley into the Staircase region of Olympic National Park, with many craggy but forested ridges. Lake Cushman was directly below and Lightning Peak appeared commanding across the lake. Far in the distance behind the southern peaks of the Olympics, I could see the Pacific coast and even the indentation of Grays Harbor. To the southeast, the southernmost reaches of the Puget Sound were visible. Behind the Sound rose the wall of the Cascades, with snowcapped Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens standing out from the pack. Looking north, I could spot the summits of Mount Pershing and Mount Ellinor through the trees.
|Lightning Peak and Lake Cushman|
I made quick work with the rest of the descent and found myself back at my car less than an hour before sunset. It took me a day or two afterwards to recover from the muscle strain of this hike. Although the hike was only 6.5 miles, it took me a little over 5 hours to complete.
While the views are quite nice, I can't really recommend this hike to anyone but Puget Sound area locals looking for a workout. The trail is generally easy to follow, although it was a little faint in areas along the summit loop; however, the hike was steep at just about every point except for the brief respite along the summit ridge. Good views are common in the Northwest as are intense workout hikes; many workout hikes provide even more sweeping views than Mount Rose (i.e. the Kamikaze Trail up Mount Teneriffe). If you're up for both and want to visit the Olympics, this could be a suitable hike.