Hiking Mount Ellinor - Part 5
Driving north from the south end of Hood canal on Hwy 101, you turn west on hwy 119 at Hoodsport and follow the Lake Cushman road to the end. Take a right where it deadends at NF-24 (N. Lake Cushman road, also known as state highway 119, and take that road for about a mile, and turn left on NF-2419 just before you get to Lilliwaup creek campground.
There are two Mount Ellinor trails, a lower and upper. The upper is shorter but steeper, and by any standard for a hiking trail it's pretty steep. The lower is longer but less steep, until it joins up with the upper, just above the upper trailhead. I hiked the upper one, which was over 1.9 miles one way and about 2,500 feet AEG, which translates to a 25% slope. The distance is a piece of cake, but the elevation gain will take it's toll because of the steepness you will use muscles that you don't normally use. It's like spending 4 hours on the stepmaster in the gym. Your calves will let you know it after you hike this trail no matter what shape you are in.
I strongly recommend that you have trekking poles before you attempt this trail. Some of the upper sections are bordering on dangerous without poles, plus it will take a lot of the stress off your knees to use trekking poles. The Trail is called Mount Ellinor trail #812 - upper trailhead, which you follow for 1.9miles to the summit.
The upper trailhead is at the end of forest road NF-014, which is a turn off of NF-2419. NF-2419 has some washboarding, some of it can be bad depending on the season, since this is a very busy trail, especially on the weekends. Take the sections with washboarding slower than you think you should, it can sneak up on you and get you into a dangerous situation where you can't steer or brake, depending on the condition and type of suspension and shock absorbers in your car, especially since there are some very steep dropoffs, and the road is narrow at spots. There is a nice pit toilet at the upper trailhead. Thank goodness for the forest service!
The trailhead is big enough for about 20 cars, but on a weekend that's not nearly big enough, and people will be parking up to a quarter mile down the road from the trailhead.
You have views of the trailhead from some places as you hike up the mountain. Unfortunately, most of the snow was melted off the mountains when I hiked it in mid August, slightly earlier than in past years.
The first section of trail winds through the old growth forest, and may lull you into the idea that this trail while somewhat steep is not so much of a challenge.
The second section the trail will show you what a steep trail looks like. You climb up a boulder field, and then hike up a section of steps, and then it gets really steep, and you're glad that you have your trekking poles in your hands.
When you are near the peak you may miss the turn in the trail and follow the ridge across to the north. It's not a bad detour to take on purpose to get some good views and pictures as well, but be sure to come back to that junction and go west instead of north and go a little higher to the summit, the views on a clear day are just amazing. The day we were there were dissapointing, because of the wildfires in the area of the west Olympic peninsula had smoked up the air pretty bad limiting visibility to about a mile or two. But normally you can see a very long way in every direction.
Up on top you have 360 degree views. To the east you can see Mount Rainier, you can see hood canal, you can see Puget Sound. To the west you can see clear over to Mount Olympic, and everything between Mount Ellinor and Mount Olympic. When you reach the peak you will agree that it was worth it to hike up for the view.
I averaged a little less than 0.7 MPH round trip, so it took most of the day, but I like to take a lot of pictures (about 250) and from time to time I stop and rest maybe 3 or 4 times on a hike this long for 5 minutes. I stopped on top for a snack and took quite a few pictures.
When you're at the summit, you may wish to take a light windbreaker. The day I hiked it I was on the warm side until I got up on the summit, and the windchill cooled me down right away. I ended up starting down after about 30 minutes, because I was getting a chill in that wind.
About a third of the hike is in the woods, and pretty protected, with plenty of shade, which I appreciated. The rest is somewhat exposed, so be sure and bring a good hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen if there is any snow.
I recommend doing this trail, the views are amazingly good. Almost anybody can hike this trail if you take your time and rest when you need you need rest. Probably a good idea to take lunch with you and make a day of it. Bring plenty of water, say 3 liters per person should be enough for most folks.
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Last Update: September 03, 2015
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