|Mount Rainier and western larches from Teanaway Ridge|
Access: Decent gravel road to trailhead; Northwest Forest Pass required
Iron Bear, in the Teanaway of Washington State's Cascade Range, is an underappreciated hike with beautiful color in both the spring and fall. Each spring, profuse wildflowers fill the slopes of Teanaway Ridge, while fall brings bright yellow color to the western larches dotting the nearby valleys. Views from Iron Bear cover much of the Teanaway, with cameos by Mount Rainier and Mount Stuart, two of the more impressive peaks in Washington State. This is a fairly easily accessible summit, with few challenges on the trail itself, although hikers do share this trail with bikers for much of the year.
I hiked this trail twice within a year, first visting in June for the profuse wildflower display and then in October for the western larches. On my October visit, I hiked with two friends on a warm, sunny fall day. From Seattle, we followed I-90 east across Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum; exiting at Cle Elum, we drove through town on Highway 903 and then continued east on Highway 10 towards Ellensburg after passing an interchange with I-90. At the junction with Highway 970, we stayed to the left to head towards Blewett Pass and Wenatchee. After Highway 970 connected with US 97, we continued north until reaching Forest Service Road 9714, which was not well marked and easy to miss; we turned left onto 9714 and followed the gravel road along Iron Creek. Towards the end, the road crossed over a small creek and became rougher; we parked right before the creek crossing and walked the rest of the way to the trailhead. There was parking right after the creek crossing as well.
The trail dove into the forest, quickly crossing a stream and then heading gradually uphill, cutting through a forest of ponderosa pine and larch; at points, switchbacks helped moderate what was already a fairly gentle ascent.
|Iron Bear Trail in spring|
|What is this?|
|Glacier lilies on Iron Bear in spring|
|Arrowleaf balsamroot in spring|
|Western larches fill the valley of Iron Creek|
|The ascent towards Teanaway Ridge|
|Golden western larches on Teanaway Ridge|
|Looking towards Iron Bear from Teanaway Ridge|
|Fall colors in the Teanaway|
|Mount Rainier rises above the Teanaway|
|Trees of the Teanaway|
At points, the trail was built out of cinder blocks- an odd choice that my friends and I puzzled over. Were the cinder blocks meant to prevent erosion? Perhaps this had something to do with the multi-use nature of the trail? Odder still was a pile of unused cinder blocks off to the side of the trail a short distance before the summit.
After catching our first view of Mount Stuart while hiking through forest, the trail made a final ascent with open views to the east of Tronsen Ridge and out past the wind farms to Kittitas Valley.
|Mount Stuart rises above the Teanaway|
|Mount Rainier and the Teanaway larches|
|Endless layers of ridges|