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Tiger Mountain Trail

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Hiking the crown jewel of Tiger Mountain State Forest is a rite of passage for serious Issaquah Alps explorers. The trip isn't to be taken lightly, however. It requires a long day and good conditioning. It also requires some planning, as you'll need to arrange for a car at the trail's end. The 16-mile route weaves around or over most of the primary peaks on Tiger, and since it crosses scores of other trails and not all the intersections are well-marked, good routefinding skills are essential.

The Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) was first conceived of in 1972, with construction getting underway in 1977. The first official hike on the new trail was in 1979. The route can be hiked north to south, but most Tiger Mountain aficionados agree it is best traveled south to north, as described here.

The trail begins climbing steadily right from the start, heading north onto the wooded slopes of South Tiger Mountain. At 1.5 miles, after passing under a band of cliffs, the trail pops out on an old railroad grade turned road at Hobart Gap, the first trail junction you'll encounter. Stay right on the railroad grade--occasionally, you'll see railroad ties still embedded in the trail tread.

At 2.2 miles, the TMT rolls under the high-tension powerlines. The long clearing under the powerlines reveals views of the East Tiger summit. Head straight across this clearing, keeping a sharp eye out for trail signs, to find the trail heading off into the woods on the far side.

The path continues to make use of the old railroad grade to a junction with Road 1400 at 2.9 miles. Follow this road about 0.5 mile to Holder Creek and the West Side Road. Turn left onto the West Side Road and in just 0.2 mile you'll encounter the old TMT trailhead (used when the West Side Road was still open to public traffic).

Turn right onto the TMT as it rolls north on the old Holder Creek Railroad Grade. At 5 miles out, you'll cross Karls Gap. An optional 0.5-mile side trail leads to the (treed) summit of Middle Tiger (elev. 2607 ft). Continue on the main trail and you'll enjoy broken views of Mount Rainier and the country between you and that big peak.

Around the halfway point, the trail runs through the woods alongside Fifteenmile Creek. An interesting bit of human history can be found here--a massive steel cable lies across the trail. This 2-inch braided bit of steel was suspended overhead and used to drag huge logs out of the forest to a landing where they could be loaded on rail cars.

The TMT crosses Fifteenmile Gap at 9.3 miles, and 1 mile later the trail bursts out onto the sun-drenched viewpoint of Ricks Rock (elev. 2250 ft). Outstanding views are found here and continue on as you hike north to West Tiger 2. At 10.5 miles, you'll stride through Mannings Reach--named for guidebook author and legendary wildland protector Harvey Manning--which marks the high point of the TMT (elev. 2600 ft).

From Mannings Reach, you'll descend past junctions with the West Tiger Railroad Grade, West Tiger 3 Trail, and the West Tiger 2 Trail. Grand views can be found at West Tiger 2.

The rest of the TMT is a rolling descent to the Tradition Plateau Trailhead.
Driving Directions:

From Issaquah head east on Front Street (which becomes Issa-quah-Hobart Road after it leaves town). About 6 miles past the city limits, turn left (north) onto SE Tiger Mountain Road. Continue for 1/4 mile before parking on the left shoulder at a wide pullout. The trail is on the right, up the road a hundred feet or so from the pullout.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 80 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
High Point Trail, Tiger Mountain Trail, Preston Trail, Lingering Trail — Mar 11, 2014 — Quantum Guru
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail
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It was the first sunny day in a while and my first Tiger hike in several weeks. I took the High P...
It was the first sunny day in a while and my first Tiger hike in several weeks.

I took the High Point Trail up to the TMT, the TMT as far as Fred's Corner, then the RR Grade up to the Preston Trail (photo,) thence on to the viewpoint on W. Tiger #1.

For my return I followed the utility access road over to W. Tiger #2, the #2 Trail down to the TMT, the TMT past Fred's Corner to the Lingering Trail, then back to the High Point Trail and my trailhead.

Trail conditions were generally good. I found only a trace of snow dusting a few feet of trail on the way to W. Tiger #1. All the small streams were running high (photo.) Occasionally, water was flowing on the trail itself but there was very little mud. The few blowdowns were easily stepped over or ducked under.

It's early for wildflowers but I did see some white currant low down on the High Point Trail and some coltsfoot, at this point only a few inches tall, along the TMT (photo.) I was alert for trilliums, but they remained elusive.

I saw a woodpecker and several towhees and robins along the trails, but the usual gray jays were absent from W. Tiger #1. I saw no large critters today.

On the bench at W. Tiger #1 I sat for a while, in pleasantly-warm sun for the entire time. But billowing clouds were blowing past to the west and south. Occasionally, Mt. Rainier would appear for just a few seconds or, to the west, the snowy tops of Olympic summits were barely visible briefly (photo.)

It was a pleasant day to be out. I encountered nine other hikers, but the trails did not seem at all crowded.

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High Point Trail, Dwight's Way, West Tiger 1, Bootleg Trail, East Tiger, West Tiger 2, Tiger Mountain Trail, K-3 Trail — Dec 19, 2013 — mOuNtAiNeEr51
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Snow on trail
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Started at High Point Trail TH, hiked up East Tiger via Dwight's Way, Bootleg Trail, East Tiger Trai...
Started at High Point Trail TH, hiked up East Tiger via Dwight's Way, Bootleg Trail, East Tiger Trail. Snow starts around 2000ft. Where the East Tiger Trail crosses Preston RR Grade, the rest of the trail has been closed off. A new trail has been built 0.7 miles south on the Preston RR Grade that leads up East Tiger, but it is almost 1 extra mile. So we chose to take the old trail up. At first we thought only the beginning on the trail was blocked by branches, but it turns out the trail crews cut down trees along the entire trail and covered the whole trail by logs. So we simply followed the "trail of logs" and it eventually met up with the new trail. We followed that to the road and walked up the road to the top. We went down the same way.

We hiked up West Tiger 1 via the Upper Bootleg. We ended up at the easternmost comms tower, then followed the ridgetop road to the top of WT1 and down to the Hikers Hut. If anything this was better than staying in the forest because we had a nice view north to Bellevue and Lake Sammamish. We made our way over to WT2, then hiked down the K3 Trail and TMT out to High Point Trail and out. 12 miles, nearly 3500ft. gain, 6.5 hours with breaks.
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Tiger Mountain Trail — Nov 30, 2013 — Leaf Eater
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail
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I hit the trail at 8am to do a big loop to work off my thanksgiving muffin top. I wasn't sure exactl...
I hit the trail at 8am to do a big loop to work off my thanksgiving muffin top. I wasn't sure exactly how long I would actually go, but I did think about going up to East Tiger Mountain, at just over 3000' its the only peak in Tiger Mtn I've not been to.

trail conditions: I ended up doing just over 20mi, and over 6,000ft of elev gain (according to my gps) there was no snow anywhere and only a couple blowdowns. Some muddy area's but not enough to mention. All in all a nice long hike.

My GPS track:
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Tiger Mountain Trail — Oct 20, 2013 — michaelw81
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Beautiful Day for a trail run along the Tiger Mountain Trail. We did the run point to point, startin...
Beautiful Day for a trail run along the Tiger Mountain Trail. We did the run point to point, starting from the South Trailhead along SE Tiger Mt road(which, turns out, is a little tough to find) and ending at High Point Trailhead. We had some initial navigation problems on the southern end of the trail, but got back on-track and enjoyed nice trail the rest of the way. Due to time constraints, we cut out a section of the TMT and took One View Trail and Poo Poo Point trail back to the parking lot. Trail conditions were ideal and we enjoyed sun up high and cool fog as we descended back to the parking lot. Fall colors were out in force!
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TMT — Jul 20, 2013 — Engineer in the Woods
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Overgrown
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My 10 year old son and I hiked the TMT from south to north on Saturday. The weather was great, and ...
My 10 year old son and I hiked the TMT from south to north on Saturday. The weather was great, and we had a good time.

If you are considering hiking the TMT, be sure to bring a proper map. Particularly at the south end of the TMT, it can be difficult to ensure that you are on the right trail. While on the map it looks like it would be harder to stay on the TMT as you head north, it actually gets easier, because the signage gets better - at least in that direction.

For us, the difficultly finding the trail started right at the trailhead. The trailhead at the south end is just a pull out on Tiger Mountain Rd, just above Issaquah-Hobart Rd. The trailhead itself is a little further up the road, to the right. It's easy to miss.

The trail itself is mostly a slow climb through the woods to ~2500 ft, which given the grade is pretty easy. Although at 16 miles, it's pretty long. I found it less challenging than Mt Si which we hiked a couple of weeks earlier, but my son thought it was more difficult because it was so long.

While we did enjoy most of the hike, large sections of the middle ~8 miles were very overgrown. This had both of us putting on long pants and long sleeve shirts in the middle of a hot day, to avoid getting scratched up. It can also be very slow going through the brush. I am glad that I had the extra clothes in our pack.

One of the highlights of the middle section was "Dieter's Spring", right by the path. It was exciting for my boy to see a stream gushing right out of the ground like that, and it's something that I am sure he will remember for a long time.

For me though, I thought the nicest section was at the end of the hike, as it winds through a bunch of streams and across a number of bridges, well beneath a high canopy.

If you are looking for a nice, long hike, and don't mind push through the bushes sometimes, this one is for you.
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Photo by Whitebark.
WTA worked here!
2011, 2012, 2013
Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
Department of Natural Resources, South Puget Sound Region
Roundtrip 16.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2200 ft
Highest Point 2607 ft
Old growth
Mountain views
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails Tiger Mountain No. 204S

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