Distance: 4.2 miles
Elevation gain: 1200 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.
It might be mid-September, but the hot, sunny weather we’ve been seeing lately makes it feel like we’re still in August! My mom wanted a shorter, easier hike for the weekend, and I wanted to take advantage of the clear skies to see some mountains, so our group decided on Sauk Mountain. It’s a long drive with 7.5 miles of steep, bumpy forest road at the end, and we definitely spent much more time driving than we did hiking. No regrets.
Most hikes start out with a mile or two in the forest before the views start. With this one, you’re switchbacking up the side of the mountain immediately with little shade. There were a lot of “shortcuts” up the switchbacks, some of which were so well defined that we’d accidentally take the shortcut instead of the longer trail. This hike would be really beautiful earlier in the summer when the fields were full of wildflowers. At this point in September, most of the flowers were already gone, and it was still early for fall colors.
Views were good from the beginning, but as we got higher up, we got to see more. Glacier Peak, the top of Mount Rainier, and a magnificent Mount Baker were visible midway up, with a long line of smaller mountains in between. At the top, there are a lot of social trails, and we ended up getting off the main trail by accident. There are a lot of spots to spread out below the summit, and there’s a really nice view down to Sauk Lake. A trail also heads down there, but it’s a 1000 foot or so loss of elevation, so we didn’t see anyone heading down that day.
There are a few high points to scramble up (I went up one) and a more reasonable trail that leads to a former lookout point, which I guess must be considered the Sauk Mountain summit. We took pictures and ate our lunches here, gazing down at the busy pikas gathering plants for their burrows. I also located a geocache on a rock at the top. No one else joined us at the lookout point while we were there. For such an easy hike with great views, it was remarkably uncrowded.
On the way down, we heard a loud whistle and quickly located the nearby source: a marmot enjoying the sun from a rock. Sadly, he ran off before I got a good picture. Made our way down the switchbacks, passing a good number of people coming up in the late afternoon. A great little hike! I’m considering going back to spend the night at Sauk Lake, which would make the long drive more worthwhile.
View from Sauk Mountain (view in Photosynth)