|Duckabush drainage viewed from atop Mount Jupiter|
Access: No pass required; rough gravel road to trailhead.
Mount Jupiter's distinct eastern position along the Olympic Mountains allows hikers who make the long trek to its summit the chance to see both the many lobes of the Puget Sound and the interior Olympic Peaks that rise above the Dosewallips and Duckabush valleys. From the summit, there are sweeping views of the Olympic peaks, including rare close-ups of both The Brothers and Mount Constance; on a clear day, it's possible to see across the Sound to Seattle and all five of Washington State's Cascade volcanoes. The incredible summit panorama is accessed by a long hike that follows Mount Jupiter's long ridge through forests of rhododendron that bloom in the late spring and early summer.
This hike is tough. The distance and elevation gain aren't the only factors here: the trail is dry, overgrown, and potentially hot depending on the weather. While much of the ridge walk is in the forest, the final mile and a half of the hike that features much of the elevation gain is out in the open on the mountain's southern slopes, making the ascent an oven on a hot day. It's necessary to carry sufficient water for 14 miles of hiking and 4700 feet of elevation gain because there are literally no water sources. While the trail is overall often overgrown, it's substantially more of a problem in the final ascent, as trees and rhododendron in that stretch of trail often cover the trail entirely when the trail is negotiating steep drop-offs. Which brings up another potential issue: those afraid of heights likely won't deal well with the narrow trail and substantial drop-offs at the end of the hike.
I hiked this trail on a sizzling June Sunday, when temperatures in Seattle topped 90 degrees. It takes roughly the same amount of time to access the trailhead from Seattle by going around the Sound entirely, taking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, or taking a ferry; either way, you'll need to get onto US 101 along the Hood Canal to access the trailhead. I arrived from the north: from Quilcene, I took US 101 south past Brinnon and Dosewallips State Park to the turnoff on the right for the Mount Jupiter Road. The road quickly turned to gravel as I followed it a little ways up the Duckabush Valley before it made a few steep switchbacks up the lower slopes of Jupiter Ridge. The road was rutted in places and quite steep here- it would have been useful to have a four-wheel drive but the sedan I was driving made it through okay. At an unsigned fork in the road after the switchbacks, I took the left fork, which headed uphill and passed by a gate where the road is occasionally closed. I followed that road another 2.5 miles to the marked trailhead on the left side of the road. Parking was limited to wide spots on the side of a spur road. While doable with a small car, having a four-wheel drive on this road certainly wouldn't hurt.
The hike began in the middle of a recovering clearcut; the first mile of the trail traverses privately-held lumber land. The status of the forests in the first mile of the hike are thus very much subject to change; by the time you read this, there may not be forest where there was forest when I hiked. The first couple hundred yards through the recovering cut had views of the Hood Canal, Mount Rainier, and Seattle. Small trees had popped up and the recovering slopes were populated with lupine and paintbrush. As I hiked, the two-peaked massif of the Brothers came into view to the southwest. The trail made a steady ascent through the lumber property.
|Seattle in morning light from the trailhead|
|The Brothers and Mount Jupiter viewed from the clearcut|
|View from outcrop along Jupiter Ridge|
|Entering The Brothers Wilderness|
On the exposed slopes, the trail was narrower and steeper, with some eroded sections and other sections blocked by vegetation in such a way that I was forced to work my way somewhat precariously around to not tumble off the mountain's south slope. There was also a decent scattering of blooming wildflowers: I spotted scattered growths of Indian paintbrush, phlox, and beargrass.
|The Brothers and Mount Washington and the trail to the summit of Jupiter|
|Jupiter summit and Mount Constance|
The view to the west was dominated by the Olympic peaks. Most prominent were Mount Washington far to the south, The Brothers close in, Mount Anderson directly to the west, and Mount Constance to the north; countless other snowbound peaks defined the valleys of the Duckabush and Dosewallips rivers. The view is unsurprisingly good, considering Mount Jupiter's prominence and the peak's former role as the site of a fire lookout.
|Glacier Peak and Sloan Peak|
Mount Jupiter is an excellent hike for those who have explored some more accessible summits in the Olympics such as Ellinor or Townsend and want to try something more difficult with a less often seen view. It's an appropriate hike for fit hikers who can handle a tough summit push after a five mile approach along a dry, hot ridge. It's not an ideal or even a reasonable hike for hikers new to the Olympics or anyone who hasn't had a decent amount of prior hiking experience.