Ned Hill

Ned Hill

I like unpopular, forgotten trails, and hikes to higher elevations in my area that I can do in January. Ned Hill fit the bill, so I decided to check it out.

The trail starts about a third of a mile past the Deer Ridge trailhead; it’s on the right, marked by a post that’s easy to miss. The trail is narrow and steep, with a dusting of snow. It climbs 900 feet in about 1.2 miles, so it’s a good little workout. There aren’t a lot of views, but I did catch some glimpses of Mt. Baldy and other peaks to the south.

A glimpse of Mt. Baldy through the trees.

At the top there’s a very rickety lookout which has somehow been standing since 1933. The main poles are trees that still look pretty solid, but the cross poles and platform look very rotted out and ready to fall. I started to climb it but changed my mind; it looked like the whole thing could have come tumbling down on my head. This page by lookout expert and scout extraordinaire Will Hite has a lot more history and details about the site.

The rickety remains of a lookout built in 1933.
Another shot of the makeshift lookout.

The only other thing of interest on this hike was a set of tracks in the snow most of the way up. I’m not sure what animal made them; a large dog or a cougar?

Cougar track on the trail?

I ran most of the way down, except for some steep sections where you need to be careful not to slip in the snow. Not a bad little workout in quiet mountain surroundings. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Burnt Hill

Burnt Hill

Burnt Hill is just down the road from my house, a foothill of the beautiful Olympic mountains to the south. I didn’t see any trails listed for it at WTA or other sites, but looking at topographical maps I saw some trails or forest roads that looked worth scouting.

Driving to the end of Johnson Creek Road, I found a gated trailhead where Discovery Passes are required. From there it’s a straight, steep climb up a forest road for about 1.5 miles to a fork in the road and a clearing with views of the Sound to the north.

The view north to the Sound, Miller Peninsula, Protection Island and Quimper Peninsula.

Go left to nice vistas of the mountains and valleys to the south. Go right to the summit of the hill at 2400 feet, where there are more limited views and the road ends about 2 miles in.

The view from the clearing near the top of the hill.
Another view of the Olympics.

Most people will turn around here, but I’m not most people. I continued on a dirtbike trail then bushwhacked down the west side of the hill, eventually connecting to trails and coming out on River Road, about 8 miles in total. The trails are mostly unmapped and it’s tricky to avoid an active mine on the west side of the hill (I snuck through it), but that’s all part of the adventure. You can also connect to roads around the north side of the hill and loop back to where you started for a longer hike if you’re not deterred by minor annoyances like “no trespassing” signs.

I only saw a few people on a sunny Sunday in January, including a woman who had pushed a bicycle up the hill and two guys in a four-wheeler. I am very pleased to have discovered this scenic year-round hike in my backyard, and will be returning for further scouting.

P-5000 Road to Spada Lake

P-5000 Road to Spada Lake

I decided to scout the the old P-5000 road (now called Forest Road 6126) that runs along the Pilchuck river after reading WTA user mato’s reports and doing a little research. Apparently people could drive this road all the way from Menzel Lake Road to Spada Lake 30 or 40 years ago, and it was a popular motorcycle trail until a boy was killed in 2005 and they restricted it to non-motorized travel. I wanted to see if it was still possible to hike the entire route to Spada Lake, and there was only one way to find out.

The road begins at a gate off Menzel Lake Road about 5 miles southeast of Granite Falls. The first eight miles are an easy, pleasant river walk. Then you come to a pile of trees across the road and things quickly go south. At 8.5 miles, the full-on bushwhack begins.

Entering the bushwhack section.

For the next five miles, you will be pushing aside bushes, scrambling over trees and up and down washouts, while making sure you’re still on the road. It’s not as bad as it looks, but it’s definitely a grind. There was a faint trail most of the way and it’s usually not hard to figure out where the road is by following the corridor through the trees.

At about nine miles you come to a ruined bridge over Wilson creek, but it’s an easy scramble and ford to get back on track.

The ruined bridge over Wilson creek (9 miles in).

I hammock-camped in the forest above the road; everything was covered in moss, a reminder that this area gets heavy rain. About 13 miles in I came to a crossing of Pilchuck River that I was concerned about from looking at the maps. As it turns out it’s no problem; there’s a ruined bridge that can still be walked across.

The ruined bridge over Pilchuck River (13 miles in).

Then you hit a perfectly maintained forest road—a beautiful sight after all the bushwhacking—that takes you down to the Culmback Dam on Spada Lake—which is another beautiful sight after having no views but trees and bushes for miles.The entire route to the dam was about 15 miles. From there it was a long road-walk down to Gold Bar and refreshments, ending a long but adventurous 24 hours.

At Spada Lake. Mission accomplished!

I liked the post-apocalyptic feel of this scouting mission; this is what hiking will be like after civilization collapses, when everything is overgrown and falling to ruin and nature reclaims the land. Is this is a glimpse of our future? Shadow Scout thinks so!

Squire Creek Pass

Squire Creek Pass

At Squire Pass.

Starting in Darrington, I walked a loop of about 20 miles over Squire Creek Pass. I road-walked about 3.7 miles to the Squire Creek trailhead and hammock-camped near the creek. The next morning I hiked up to the pass, which gets very overgrown and rocky toward the top. The pass area is a large flat rock surface good for camping, with spectacular views of the nearby peaks. I hiked down the other side via Eight-mile Trail, which is very rocky and steep in places (poles are helpful). Then I walked five miles on forest road 2060, connected to the Frog Lake Trail down to Mountain Loop Highway, cooled off in Clear Creek, and walked the highway back to Darrington.

One of many old-growth trees on this trail.

This was a surprisingly tough hike! You have to tread carefully over rocky slopes while bushwhacking and looking for the trail, and your knees will take a pounding going down Eight-mile trail. Don’t expect a mild, well-groomed, easy to follow trail. But the reward is a very nice wilderness area featuring rugged mountains, clear creeks and old-growth trees that you will probably have all to yourself (I didn’t see a soul). You are only a few miles from Darrington, but it feels much more remote.

Nice view of Whitehorse Mountain.
Nice view of Three Fingers as you approach the pass.
Anderson Mountain

Anderson Mountain

Panoramic views of Mt. Baker and Skagit valley near the top.

One of my ongoing missions is scouting sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail near me. For this trip I hiked over Anderson Mountain from Highway 9 to Alger, then did a loop from Alger along the PNT through Squires Lake.

PNT trail marker near the summit.

The trail begins at a gated forest road several miles south of Wickersham. It was a bit of a grind switchbacking up the mountain on a hot day, but several cold streams helped. After about 5 miles the road opens up to spectacular views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks to the north and along the Skagit Valley. Near the summit I left the forest road and walked a nice section of trail marked with a PNT sign. I rejoined a forest road and got some nice views west to the Chuckanuts and the San Juans. At some point, due to the GPS track I was following, I got on an overgrown forest road that looks like it was abandoned 15 or 20 years ago. There were huge piles of logs on the trail and I finally ended up in deep bush with no sign of the trail. I pushed straight through the bush and finally connected to another section of the PNT foot trail, which took me the rest of the way down the mountain. Road-walking along narrow-shouldered Alger Cain Lake Road got me to Alger and the Shell station for refreshments. I hiked about 15 miles from Highway 9 to Alger and ninja-camped in the woods near I-5.

Lost in the bushes coming down the mountain.
Massive stump at the base of the mountain.

The next morning, fueled with a coffee, muffin and breakfast sandwich from the Shell station, I rejoined the PNT at the gated forest road just outside of town. This was an easy walk toward Squires Lake, with a side trip up Alger Alp, which has a nice vantage point over Alger. I followed the South Ridge trail to the Squires Lake Trail around the lake and back down to the highway. Several miles of road-walking got me across I-5 and back to Alger for more refreshments.

This was a fun little PNT scouting mission, but the trail toward the top of Anderson Mountain was confusing; you might have to do some serious bushwhacking to get back on trail. The mountain was surprisingly scenic, I had the trail all to myself, and Alger is a nice re-supply point that thru-hikers will welcome.

Lyman Hill

Lyman Hill

A typical view west toward the San Juans.

As part of my ongoing mission to scout sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail, I decided to hike over Lyman Hill (really a massive mountain) from Highway 9 then walk down into Lyman.

Starting from the gated forest road off Wickersham Road, the ascent was pretty relentless: nine miles and 4000 feet of switchbacks, the last part exposed to the afternoon sun. Fresh bear scat on the road, a bobcat and some circling hawks kept things interesting on the way up. The views west over Anderson and Blanchard Mountains, Lake Whatcom and the San Juans became more expansive as I ascended.

At the summit the forest road connected to the Gurdjieff Connector Trail (love the name), a shady, grassy ridge walk that was a relief after climbing a hot dirt road all afternoon. Then things got confusing as I entered an active logging area, where large tractors and piles of felled trees obscured the trail. I walked a little ways up the clear-cut to a high point, and suddenly I got a spectacular view north to Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks. This was the best view of the hike, thanks to the loggers. In fact all the views on this hike were made possible by clear-cuts.

Spectacular views of Mt. Baker from a clear-cut near the top.

As I descended the east side of the mountain I got nice views of the Skagit River valley and the North Cascades in the distance. I hammock-camped on a piece of DNR land above a trickle of water and went to bed early so I could exfiltrate the mountain before any loggers arrived.

The view of Skagit valley coming down the mountain at sunset.

To my surprise, one or two trucks rolled up the mountain around 4 am, so I decided to pack up before dawn and hit the trail. I walked forest roads down the mountain for several miles, connected to Pipeline Road and walked a couple of miles into Lyman for breakfast. As a final challenge, two rather aggressive dogs approached me and made it clear they didn’t want me passing by their house. I quickly found a large stick and prepared to do battle, but fortunately their owner came out just in time and called them home.

All in all, a fun scouting trip of around 21 miles from Wickersham Road to Lyman. I didn’t see anyone on the trail, though I did hide from a couple of pickup trucks in the morning because that’s how a Shadow Scout operates.

Lyman Hill is privately owned but open to PNT hikers.