|Granite, Kaleetan, Chair, Snoqualmie, Red- the Snoqualmie Pass peaks seen from Mount Catherine|
Difficulty: Moderate, due to short scrambling section at end of trail
Access: Bumpy unpaved road to trailhead (no high clearance okay), Northwest Forest Pass required
Mount Catherine is likely the easiest hike to a summit in Washington State's Snoqualmie Pass corridor east of North Bend. This relatively short but fairly steep trail quickly elevates hikers to a rocky summit with nice views of the Snoqualmie Pass peaks, Lake Keechelus, and Mount Rainier. If you've got less than a half day and you want to summit one of the mountains off I-90, Mount Catherine is your hike. Although the summit view cannot compare to the views seen from higher nearby peaks such as Alta Mountain, Granite Mountain, or Silver Peak, it's still an impressive viewshed considering the relative ease of reaching the summit.
I hiked Mount Catherine along with neighboring Silver Peak on an extremely nice November day. I left Seattle on I-90 heading east and drove out to Hyak at exit 54; upon leaving the interstate, I turned right and followed Hyak Drive through the village of Hyak until the road turned into NF 9070. I continued on the road, now unpaved, for five miles, passing a set of switchbacks and some rocky patches in the road to the trailhead. The trail started off to the right (north) of the road; there was parking along the road on the downhill side. As the trailhead is extremely poorly marked, I've photographed the marker for the trail (which simply reads "1348" and does not mention Mount Catherine). If you come to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail in a recent clearcut, then you've gone too far.
|Mount Catherine Trailhead|
About three-quarters of a mile into the hike, I reached the top of the ridgeline and found a brief respite from the uphill. The switchback ascent had been cut into a fairly dry southern slope with little soil and no mud; atop the ridge, I found a much damper environment, with mud often covering the trail for the remainder of the hike.
|Trail along ridgetop|
|First views of Snoqualmie, Chikamin, and Alta|
Just before reaching the true summit, the trail emerged at a wide north-facing clearing. This was the best view of Snoqualmie Pass on the hike. All of the immediate peaks near the pass from Granite Mountain through Alta Mountain were visible; looking just east of the pass, I saw I-90 emerge from the the top of the pass and lead east towards Ellensburg. The cluster of buildings and ski lifts at Snoqualmie Pass were clearly visible. The real show stopper, though, was Chikamin Peak and Alta Mountain, two lofty, rocky peaks that were now coated in early-season snow.
|Chikamin Peak and Alta Mountain from the clearing just below the summit|
At the top of the cables, I found a rocky ridge running east to west offering wide open views to the south. Silver, Tinkham, and Abiel Peaks were visible nearby, but the real star of the show here was Mount Rainier. The Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers were both visible and distinguishable on the eastern half of the mountain; the Willis Wall and Liberty Cap were the most impressive features of its western half. Other, lower peaks, many snowcapped, crowded the horizon.
|Mount Rainier from Mount Catherine|
|Cascade ridges from Mount Catherine|
|Keechelus Lake from Mount Catherine summit|