Information about this hike provided in partnership with Mountaineers Books.
Copyright © Dan A. Nelson/The Mountaineers Books
Tiger Mountain Trail
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.
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 mile before parking on the left shoulder at a wide pullout. The trail is on the right.
Recent Trip Reports
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There are 34 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Grand Canyon of Fifteenmile Creek, Hobart-Middle Tiger Railroad Grade, Tiger Mountain Trail, Middle Tiger, Bootleg, High Point Creek, East Tiger — Jan 02, 2013 — HikerJim
Issues: Snow on trail
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Almost every New Years Eve I do a hike on Tiger Mountain. This tradition began in 1983, my second ye...
Almost every New Years Eve I do a hike on Tiger Mountain. This tradition began in 1983, my second year of regular hiking. Since then I have only missed one New Years Eve hike. After two hikes the previous three days I was a bit tired. Gary came up with a challenging trip from the far south to the north side of Tiger. It visited three summits. With snow at higher elevations it would be tough to get in the full route in daylight. I signed on. I met Gary and John at High Point on the north side. We drove around to the south side. This would be a one way trip. Just a few minutes into the trip we passed a lone hiker. That was it for the next 8.5 hours. It had been ten years since Gary and I had been to the Grand Canyon of Fifteen Mile Creek. We each had an idea of the route on the unofficial boot path that goes up to the Hobart Railroad Grade. It was not how we remembered it. Our journey was off to an interesting beginning.
The trail is in fine shape up the Grand Canyon. The canyon narrows greatly as we proceeded. Soon the tread was much worses than we recalled. A trail headed off uphill but it was not the one we had done before. We continued to where the narrow tread dropped to the creek. Into the creek. This was very different than ten years earlier. Our GPS maps showed the route going up the creek for a ways farther before heading uphill. We were not anxious to go knee deep wading up the creek at the start of a long hike. We backtracked. It is very steep to get out of the canyon. Several possibilities did not look promising. We ended back at the first trail we had seen. It quickly turns straight uphill. The lip of the canyon proved to be a real scramble but we made it up onto the ridge.
No signs of a trail, or a boot path. Some brush, forest, and downed logs. The map showed that following the ridge up would bring us to the Hobart grade. Up we went. By this time we had spent nearly an hour and not gone far. The ridge was slow and tiring but not too bad. There are ribbons up there but no tread. We finally hit a trail. It was the old trail Gary and I have done several times before coming up from the creek. Our junction was just a few yards before the railroad grade. It was 9:50 when we reached the grade. It took us 1.5 hours to hike 2.3 miles. The route finding and off trail bushwhacking put us well behind schedule. We still had a long way to go. On the positive side, we were back on trail.
Near the start we saw a strange bright white fungus of some type. It had many thin tendrils. Along the Hobart grade we saw much more of it. If I've seen it before I do not recall. The grade was much faster. A little muddy in places but no downed logs to crawl over. Now at 1575' we saw patches of snow. We were still more than 1400' below our intended high point. We allowed for the possibility of missing East Tiger Mountain if the snow was too soft and we ended up with a lot of deep post holing on the road sections where the snow would be deepest. Although our next destination Middle Tiger Mountain was right above us, the route took us far to the north then back to the south. Along the grade we noticed one old cable spanning a ravine. John showed us his high wire act, such as it was. From the Hobart grade we had .25 miles uphill to reach the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT). At the TMT we turned to the right.
The TMT is a fine trail but not as flat as the railroad grade. Lots of ups and downs. From the Hobart Grade on we saw footprints in most of the snow patches. I was surprised to see them in these lesser visited parts of Tiger. Especially in the winter. At the Middle Tiger junction we took a short break. Although we were at about 2150' it was a few degrees above freezing. Warmer than we had planned for. The half mile trail up Middle Tiger was mostly bare at the bottom but soon was fully snow covered. Not enough footprints to polish it to an icy surface. We had fine traction. We reached the Middle Tiger summit at 11:30 pm. Just about five miles into our day. five hours of daylight left but still a long way to go.
We descended from Middle Tiger to the logging spur below. We knew that once out of the forest the snow would be deeper. Just how soft it would be would determine whether we could reach East Tiger or detour directly to West Tiger 1. At the bottom of the trail is a wooden gate to keep out bikes and horses. It is the narrowest one I have ever seen. I had to know if beanpole Gary could fit through. Much to my surprise he did though even he had to turn a little to fit. As expected the snow was now several feet deep. There were some post holes from a hiker who had passed through when the snow was much softer. For the most part it held our weight. John and I had more problems with sinking knee deep or more. It was tiring but not as bad as I feared. After the unexpected bushwhacking I did not need more extra tiring travel. If the main road was even softer that would probably rule out East Tiger for me.
Soon enough we reached the road coming from Tiger Summit on Highway 18. There were tracks on it. Nicely compacted and firm tracks. This was a game changer. No more post holing. Much easier travel. Up we headed towards East Tiger Mountain. One can follow the road all the way around East Tiger and up to the summit. This is much longer than we had time for. Instead we left the road in the vicinity of the Preston Railroad Grade. We slogged up the steep slope directly towards the summit. The snow was much softer in the forest. Much deeper too. This was slow going but not a great distance. We were all pleased to reach the road just below the 3004' summit. In a short time we were on top. One great thing about the day was a total lack of wind. it was cold but not as bad as it might have been. Since my last visit the DNR folks have put up an information board with a full map of Tiger and all the trails.
We had some of our lunch on Middle Tiger and more of it on East Tiger. It was 12:54 and we were 7 miles into our trip. We still had half the distance to cover and only 3.5 hours. It had take a little over 4.5 hours so far. On the positive side, we had gained 2700'. There was much less to gain the rest of the way. Now came the most important bit of navigating. The East Tiger Trail over to the Christmas Tree near Tiger 1 is a sketchy trail in the summer. It would be completely under snow this day. We used our GPS units extensively to find our way. It worked well as we reached the Preston Railroad Grade right at the junction with the East Tiger Trail. The snow was less deep now and we could see cut logs and figure the trail location much better. There are also a number of paint spots on trees to help with navigation. We continued to drop to the 2180' low point. A little climbing brought us to the junction with the Paw Print Trail. A few minutes later we were at the Christmas Tree. Just 12 days earlier we did a headlamp hike there in non stop rain. Much nicer this day. We picked up a filled balloon a few minutes earlier and added it to the Christmas Tree.
It was now 2:48 pm. Just under two hours of daylight left. We could take the Bootleg Trail directly down as we did on the headlamp hike. We could continue another 1.2 miles uphill to the summit of 2948' West Tiger 1. I was beat . We chose to head up. We saw no footprints on the East Tiger Trail but we had them on the Bootleg. No need for GPS navigation. Climbing another 650' on snow was a pain. It was slow. Up we went. At the junction with the Preston Trail is became flatter. Just three days earlier I came up the Preston Trail and had to kick a trail in deep snow the last short way to the summit. This day there was a packed track. I turned around almost immediately and headed down. The others had another short food break. We met up again at the Preston Trail junction. this route was much more packed down than on Friday. It was a bit slick too. Might have stopped to but on traction devices but we chose to slide on down. I was surprise that nobody took a tumble.
We made very good time downhill. The snow was getting thin at Fred's Corner and disappeared once off the old High Point Trail. Back on the smooth TMT in forest without snow we sped up more. The battle was on to see if we could make it out before darkness forced us to take out our headlamps. We just made it. On Saturday I finished hiking at Wallace Lake at 5:05. This day we reached the car at 5:08. Dark but not quite pitch black. I drove back to the south side of the mountain to Gary's car.
This was probably the most ambitious and likely the most fun New Years Eve Tiger hike so far. It was definitely the most tiring. Per John's and my GPS units it looks like we hiked about 14 miles with 3800' of gain. Since we started higher than we finished we had over 4000' of descent. Lots of snow, a little unplanned bushwhacking, some careful navigation, good friends, led to a heck of a great New Years hike!
I have posted 36 photos on my website located at: http://www.hikingnorthwest.com. Go to "Trips - 2012" on the left margin.
High Point Creek, Tiger Mountain Trail — Dec 23, 2012 — Solo Steve
Issues: Bridge out | Mudholes | Water on trail
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‘Twas the Sunday ‘fore Christmas, and all ‘long the trail from High Point to TMT we saw fer...
‘Twas the Sunday ‘fore Christmas,
and all ‘long the trail
from High Point to TMT
we saw fern. We crossed dale.
With John as crew lead,
twenty volunteers in tow,
we hiked up the hill
in hope of no snow.
Where TMT and K-3 meet,
we readied our tools.
We rolled up our sleeves.
We remembered the rules.
“Safety first, fun second,
work third!”, reminded John.
We set about work.
We bid tree roots “Begone!”
“On shovels, on pick-mattocks!
Now mind your big toes!
On McLeods, on Pulaskis,
on grub hoe hoe hoes!”
With new switchback in place
topped with mineral soil,
we returned to the trailhead
after a day of good toil.
Cookies and soda
were our treats for the day.
As we turned toward our cars,
we could all hear John say:
“Y’all worked so hard
on this cold, cloudy day!
Merry Christmas to all!
And thanks from WTA!”
Tiger Mountain Trail — Jun 22, 2012 — Nathaniel
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Overgrown | Mudholes | Water on trail
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*THE TRAIL IS CLOSED- due to logging activity from mp4- mp6.* We set out from the South and he...
*THE TRAIL IS CLOSED- due to logging activity from mp4- mp6.*
We set out from the South and headed north- the first two miles were rain free. All of the other 14 miles were in pouring rain.
There are no signs about the trail being closed on either end- just when you get to the logging activity is it posted. For us- that notification was 4-5miles into the hike. North to South people will see the first sign about 10 miles into the hike. (I see this as unacceptable)
So we were faced with two options- head back and try again at a later time... or bushwhack around the logging zone (as there are no good trails around it) We went for the latter- not advisable! It took a long time for us to make it around- and it would have been fairly impossible to do without good maps on our GPSrs.
The whole trail is a mud pie at this point, is very overgrown, and is full of nettles that seem to have a remarkable ability to sting you.
Overall- the hike was quite an undertaking- especially with the rain and mud. I enjoyed it- but really would recommend checking the current status of the logging as it is pretty active up there and there is no way through on the trail.
Tiger Mountain Trail, West Tiger 3, Tiger Mountain Cable Trail — Apr 15, 2012 — thisiscasey
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Beautiful mountain to hike and quite the maze of trails for one to adventure. We started out on ...
Beautiful mountain to hike and quite the maze of trails for one to adventure.
We started out on the Bus Trail for a hot minute, veered off on Tiger Mountain Trail, and continued onward over a few bridges. The trail started declining so we decided to head up to the unmaintained trail. Hiked that for a while and followed signs to continue on the Tiger Mountain Trail. 5.5 miles later, we were eager to get to summit and luckily ran across a sign pointing us to just that - West Tiger 3 Summit @ 2700 ft. In fact, got there just in time to see some sky divers!
NOTE: We bypassed the TMT Cable Trail as it was straight up to summit, not as scenic, rocky, and unmaintained.
This was a great cardio workout trail. Especially when we veered of of the TMT for a bit.
Tiger Mountain Trail, Bootleg, Paw Print Connector, Tiger Mountain Trail: South, Poo Poo Point — Apr 07, 2012 — whitebark
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Taking advantage of the glorious Saturday weather, I enjoyed a fine ramble on Tiger. Most snow is go...
Taking advantage of the glorious Saturday weather, I enjoyed a fine ramble on Tiger. Most snow is gone below 2000', but some heavy drifts may linger on the north slopes of the highest summits. Here are the trail conditions on this long loop around West Tiger Mountain:
Tiger Mountain Trail, Tradition Lake to K3:
Mostly in good shape, lots of new tread work visible, especially beyond the Cable Line crossing. The switchbacks are in much better shape now. There is still some narrow slumped trail beyond the twin bridges (approaching the K3 junction). Note the pretty waterfall below the second bridge - it might be nice to build a short spur down to the creek and create a viewing spot with a bench.
Officially unmaintained, steep, but otherwise in good condition up to the West Tiger RR grade.
W Tiger RR Grade, K3 to east end at Preston Trail:
Fair shape, tread a little overgrown and slumped. The crossing of the slide area could use work (but maybe it is good to wait for the slope to stabilize before doing any major work). Slide area to High Point tr junction (fred's corner) has a few blowdowns. Beyond Fred's Corner the trail is in good shape, having been recently reworked.
Preston Trail and North RR Grade:
At the end of the W Tiger RR Grade,, I descended the Preston Trail about a quarter mile then at a sign indicating "Preston Trail" turned right onto the unofficial N Tiger RR Grade Trail. Following yet another old RR grade, this route has a number of fallen trees and is hard to follow in a few spots where it crosses marshy areas. Still this route is a useful connector between the Preston Trail and Bootleg trails. Perhaps it could be made a bit more official some day.
Bootleg Trail, N Tiger RR Grade to Paw Print Connector at Fifteen Mile Pass
Cleared of blowdown, a bit muddy and snowy in a few spots. The Preston Poacher is still riding his mountain bike down the trail, judging by the tracks. Probably the same guy who has built an unauthorized trail that connects with the lower Bootleg trail at about the 1300' level so he can get down to Preston faster. I wonder who is giving him rides to Tiger Summit for his poaching expeditions?
Paw Print Connector:
In good shape, the last remnants of snow are melting away. Toilet at Paw Print Rest Stop looks good inside, but there is no toilet paper.
Tiger Mountain Trail from Paw Print to One View;
One of my favorite Tiger trails, remote, with a nice wilderness feel. Uncrowded even on a sunny Saturday. Much of the trail has been recently improved by the Issaquah Alps Club and is in great shape, although there is one annoying new blowdown part way along.
One View Trail:
Unusually muddy, especially on the trail's poorly-built east end. Usage seems to be increasing of late. This trail could use some trail crew love, and even a reroute that would contour around the 2267' high point.
Poo Poo Point Trail:
One of the more popular Tiger Trails, pretty busy on Saturday. In good shape and free of blowdown, at least to the big Many Creeks Valley bridge. The section above Many Creeks Valley is steep and muddy, and could use some rebuilding/ rerouting to a lower gradient. I love the grove of big, old growth trees part way up.