I’ve been up Mt.Teneriffe many times, with many people. It’s been a favorite of mine since I first trudged up it’s steep slopes, if not for the views and the challenge of getting to the top, then certainly for the lack of crowds.
I hadn’t been here in a couple years though, and was surprised this time around to see that some pretty significant changes have been made, namely a new trail to the summit.
While those in the know have for years known that an alternate to the Kamikaze route existed, slogging up old logging roads and faint boot paths between Mt.Si and Teneriffe, as of late summer 2014 the WA DNR turned it into an official trail.
How about that?
Great right!? A steady moderate grade on a nice even surface as compared to the stiff hike and light scrambling it used to take to get to the top, I’ll bite!
Hell, I can even loop it with ease now, and I do love a good loop.
Well all is not as it seems, for what the new trail offers in easy grade, it doles out distance in spades.
The new trail is 7 miles to Teneriffe summit! Yowza! That’s compared to the steeper old path which is only a couple miles from trailhead to mountaintop.
Well lets throw on some boots and see what this thing has to offer…
The Teneriffe trailhead is little more than a dirt turn out a little ways further down the road from the much more popular Mt.Si trailhead. While the Mt.Si trailhead is tantamount to a Wal*Mart parking lot, the Teneriffe trailhead really can’t hold more than a dozen vehicles at best.
There are “No Parking” signs along the road and I understand that the neighbors WILL call the towing company.
During peak season, the strategy here is to get in early, or get lucky, oh and a Discover Pass is required to park.
The trail begins uneventfully enough down a DNR road passing through young forest, most likely logged in the early 80s. The road comes to a fork that until very recently wasn’t marked.
You’d just have to know which way to go, but now there is a shiny new sign directing hikers to bear right to “Teneriffe Falls”.
The left fork as of this writing is still unmarked, this is the “new” trail between Mt.Si and Mt.Teneriffe.
THE “NEW” TRAIL
Heading left, the trail continues along the DNR road passing little rivulets cascading down the mountainside before climbing up into denser forest.
The grade is mostly modest but long. However it does travel through pleasant forest and every so often slight views will open up in thinner stands of trees which breaks up the monotony a bit.
When I was passing through, the forest was alive with the songs of black-capped chickadees and Varied Thrush, which made me wonder why in the hell anyone wears headphones while they hike, I mean really!
Just about then a trailrunner jogged by with headphones on, eh, to each their own I guess. Which reminds me, I imagine this would be a great trail for trailrunning as the grade is mostly very even and the path is broad.
Ahem…. So after about four miles or so of long switchbacks the grade relents a bit and the views start to be revealed.
A fork will appear in the road around this time. As of this writing it is marked with a blue ribbon, but really it’d be impossible to miss whether or not that shred of plastic was dangling there.
Going left will result in arriving at Mt.Si in a half hour or less, while going right is approximately another three miles to Mt.Teneriffe. Alright, come on, my legs are aching too, lets keep going….
Thankfully the grade remains mostly light and/or level for awhile giving you a chance to recuperate. The views here really start to open up as well, including an interesting view of “The Haystack” jutting forth from the conifers, seemingly eyeballing you like an immense and hungry Golem.
The tread seems to go on forever until finally reaching a viewpoint to points northward, the first views of such available thus far.
Take a minute to rest up because the trail begins to climb from here yet again.
The switchbacks begin immediately through the upland forest, and you can’t help but feel like you are really getting close now. Then you gain the ridge and start up! Yes, finally, almost there….er, or not. Nope, instead we find ourselves atop the high point more or less northwest of the Teneriffe summit.
Even my legs are aching good now.
Next the trail winds about along a very steep, forested drop off and eventually begins to climb again.
This has got to be it… I think I see blue between the trees, yes it’s sky alright! Phew!
The trail breaks out of the woods and dumps you out about mid-point on the Teneriffe summit block. If you have any gas left a light scramble will take you the rest of the way up. You did it!
The summit is a nice perch offering great views in all directions.
WARNING: In snowy conditions Mt.Teneriffe can have a nasty cornice on top, if it gives way, or you slip, it’s a long ways down to your certain doom.
When it’s time to head down you can either go back the way you came for a 14-mile roundtrip, or cut down the mileage but increase the difficulty by heading down the old trail.
THE OLD TRAIL (KAMIKAZE FALLS)
So beginning from the fork in the DNR road this time we bear right in the direction indicated by the nice, new and shiny Teneriffe Falls sign.
The road ambles along, crosses an ephemeral creek and starts gently climbing, becoming more and more of a trail the higher you get.
Small views begin to open up as you climb above the treetops before the road comes to something of an end marked with a sign. A boot path continues on along the road, but ignore it and head up onto the open talus above you.
After a few switchbacks the well built trail really starts to climb, and the T/A truck stop at the exit 34 really starts to become a fixture of your southern views. Try to look beyond it.
The trail continues to switchback up and up through conifer forest and talus with occasional views opening up along the way. This is a decent workout for most people, but every step is worth it when you finally reach Kamikaze Falls (Teneriffe Falls).
I first knew this place as Kamikaze Falls, I don’t know what the history behind the name is, except maybe that Kamikaze is said to mean “Divine Wind” in Japanese, and usually a divine wind does seem to issue forth from the falls.
Maybe it’s being changed because of Kamikaze’s WWII connotations, or maybe it was Teneriffe Falls this whole time, hell, I dunno. A rose by any other name I guess…
This is a great destination in itself.
During the summer you can indulge in a cooling shower beneath it’s cascading waters, or marvel at ice formations during winter cold snaps. Kamikaze Falls is incredibly photogenic destination any time of year.
With low mileage, open views and a beautiful waterfall at the end, Kamikaze Falls is a great goal for someone in kind of the low-middle range of hiking endurance looking for a new challenge and a huge reward.
At this point if you feel like trudging up to Teneriffe Summit be warned, the rest of this hike isn’t for the timid or out of shape. It’s steep, relentless and often nothing more than a faint boot path.
Look for a trail on your right, it’s a lot more well marked these days so you ought not to have trouble finding it.
The trail basically takes off like a rocket here, gaining the ridge in little time.
Get used to this grade, it’s the norm from here on out.
The route mostly follows the ridge spine, only deviating here and there. Occasionally light scrambling may be necessary up rock outcrops.
Most of the way you will find the trail is big on gain, but short on views. However that all changes rather suddenly as you break out of the trees. On a clear day the views are fantastic! Rainier dominates the south while the burgeoning Puget Sound mega-sprawl stretches along beneath the Olympics to the west.
Here you will find yourself on even steeper terrain, up mountain meadows and patches of trees before coming out near the bottom of the summit block.
During winter months it is advisable to bring some form of traction aid along with you, such as micro spikes or poles (or both!) it can be treacherous around here.
The final climb is little more than a light scramble when snow free and offers ample room for all you summit apes to enjoy a picnic surrounded by 360° of the kind of stuff some people can only dream about.
Now that you are familiar with the Teneriffe trails, from here the world is your oyster, well, if you still have some gas in the tank.
Make it a loop, take a stroll to Mt.Si or come back the way you came!
As always, leave only footprints and take only pictures, oh take and any garbage you might find along the way too. Not to get preachy but just because orange peels and banana wrappers are “biodegradable” doesn’t mean they should just be tossed on the ground. If you can’t pack it out, don’t pack it in.
As one of the first mountains one encounters heading eastbound on the I90, you’d think Mt. Washington would be one of the more popular hikes in the area.
Although it does see it’s share of people everyday I’m sure, it just doesn’t draw the crowds like it’s more famous neighbors Mt.Si and Mailbox Peak.
A few possible reasons for this are that it doesn’t really have it’s own trailhead, instead branching off of the Iron Horse trail and when viewed from the ground it doesn’t appear very spectacular.
It lacks an impressive summit block like Mc Clellans Butte or “The Haystack” and when viewed from just about any angle it really just looks like a non-descript lump of green.
Also at a scant 4420′, it seems like the runt of the I90 litter.
I’m guilty of it, I’ve driven by countless times and not really given it a second thought. I’ve passed it up for years, seeking more exciting and open looking mountain slopes along the road when the day-hike bug bites.
Well my friends, I was wrong. I said it, wrong. Turns out Mt.Washington is one hell of a hike.
Yeah, who knew, right?
Oh, and don’t let it’s unassuming demeanor and modest stature fool you, when the bell rings, this one comes out of the corner swinging!
The first part of the trail is an unrelent…. Let’s go back and start from the beginning.
We start off the exit 38, at the John Wayne trail/Twin Falls trailhead. There is usually adequate parking here and FYI, a Discover Pass is required. (Ranger Rick was handing out tickets when I pulled into the parking lot today)
Follow the trail up to the John Wayne trail and bear right, (westward) you’ll be looking for a trail on your left, heading up into the woods. You might be confused when you find it but, yeah, thats it. Hell of a trailhead, huh?
This is where I was going before…
It doesn’t take long before the trail starts beating on you with an unrelenting, steep grade, often capped with loose, jagged rock. This section of trail will devastate the legs of the uninitiated. The one encouragement I can give you is that this, at least in my humble opinion, is by far the most arduous section of the whole hike.
Along the way it passes a cut-off to Sallal (sic) Point. I haven’t yet visited the place so, no comment.
The thigh attrition finally begins to subside right around the “Owl Spot” lookout. Now, thats not to say the rest of the hike is cake or anything, but from here on out, I feel the worst is over. This is also your first real clear view of the world below. Take a breather, soak it in, you’ve earned it.
Not long after, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the summit….aaand it’s still a long ways away, keep the faith!
You’ll pass the Great Wall Junction which is an alternate route to the summit, or perhaps the tail end of a loop. I’ll talk more about it later.
The trail steadily becomes more pleasant, passing through open areas and affording views of the mountainsides. You’ll soon find yourself at a tranquil mountain pond and a fork in the road. It may appear that turning right here is a viable option, crossing the little creek and making a beeline towards the summit. This however, as I found out first hand, is not the case.
Not long afterwards you’ll encounter a strange gate. What is it’s purpose? Is it keeping us out or in? Is this the Canadian border? I’m still scratching my head. I have no idea what in the hell this thing could possibly have been built for. Whatever…
The trail now rounds the inside of the bowl between Mt.Washington and the high spot to the east. (Great Wall Peak?) Soon it begins climbing up Mt.Wa’s flanks though forest and talus. Rounding the bend you think you are almost there and then… crap.
Up and up, keep pressing on.
The trail crosses an old logging road before the final push to the summit.
As you wind up the backside of the summit, views open up to the south, Rainier, Rattlesnake Ledge, Chester Morse Lake and points beyond. Not much more than a stroll through the high meadows will bring you some even more commanding views from the summit.
Oh and a weather station, which kinda just lives there, and hungry birds, they live there too.
The Great Wall Loop
Going down can be as easy as retracing your steps back to the car, or you can turn it into a loop. I love a good loop, so lets go that way.
Perhaps when you were heading up the meadows, you noticed a lightly trodden trail heading down the ridge towards the southeast. It leads back to the last logging road the trail crossed.
Maybe too you noticed the open spaces across the bowl on your way up, or that little cliff above a flat spot over yonder. The logging road you crossed will take you over there. This to my knowledge is the Great Wall Trail.
You’ll follow it along the rim of the bowl. To the south side of the road you can’t help but notice the Cedar River Watershed’s no trespassing signs stapled to the trees, occasionally you may see red reflectors tacked to the trees on the north side.
Considering what it took you to get up here, this is paradise! Strolling along a flat road grade on the top of the world, you’ll probably dance a jig!
Jig your jolly self down the road a ways you’ll come to a “Y”, I don’t know where going forward leads, but taking the hard left and down will lead on along the Great Wall trail.
It gets better!
Soon huge views open up of McClellans Butte, Putrid Pete and many other I90 peaks to the east. The Change Creek basin appears like an abyss below, as the little logging road carries you along, across perilously steep slopes.
You might be thinking just who in the hell would have ever driven a truck on this!
“Tell em’ Large Marge sent ya…”
One thing to note here is that this section, due to it’s steep and open slopes could be potentially dangerous in adverse snow conditions. That is to say, looks pretty slide prone to me. Be sure to check: http://www.nwac.us/ for the current avalanche forecast.
Despite that, this in my opinion is the best part of this entire hike, ambling along a gentle grade, and being inundated by majestic views.
There is a kind of tricky part coming up in store for you though, as you’ll hit another junction.
One way switchbacks to the north, the other seems to enter low growing alder saplings. The natural tendency is to continue down the switchback, but upon closer examination one may see a small cairn near the dead end alder. This is the correct way down the Great Wall trail.
If you turn around you may see a small sign which indicates that the trail down the switchback leads to Change Creek, which is another viable way back to the John Wayne trail, but not the subject of this review.
Following the route as marked by the diminutive cairn, the trail again enters old, steep, logging grade through young forest of alder and mixed conifer.
Eventually you will pass by a dramatic cliff which I think is the “Great Wall”. The trail becomes narrow here and there is a drop off, but nothing to worry about.
Continue on and before you know it you are back at the Mt.Wa-Great Wall Jct. All thats left to do now is head back to the car. Congratulations, you did it! Hopefully you displayed the right pass and won’t find a ticket waiting under your windshield wiper.
I greatly underestimated Mt.Washington for years, but now have discovered just what a gem in the I90 Crown that it really is. There is much to discover along it’s forested slopes.
The trail is often flanked by subtle yet imposing cliffs which really adds a certain atmosphere to this hike, some of which have interesting caves and grottos as well.
The views, I have to admit, are fantastic and even surpass those of it’s more famous neighbors (not going to name names here so as not to hurt any feelings)
While it is a physically demanding hike with steep, long grades and an 8.5 mile roundtrip while hiking the standard route, it doesn’t offer any technical challenges to get to the summit. Given enough time it should be attainable for most people of reasonable physical constitution.
Don’t make the mistake I did for years and just poo-poo Mt.Washington as you drive on by, seeking bigger and better things.
After all you might just be driving by your new favorite hike!