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Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer

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Amble aimlessly along an easy ridge on the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Scrounge for berries or lounge in sun-kissed meadows. Then follow a faint path to a long-ago lookout site still flush in stunning alpine views. Come in summer for dazzling floral displays or in autumn for carpets of crimson unfurled along the way. But no matter the season, come during the week, for Sawyer's admirers are legion.

The way begins on an old fire break at the edge of an old cut that's quickly being reclaimed by feisty firs and hemlocks. After a short, steep and rather uninspiring prelude, the score advances to real trail through real forest and on a near-level course that's a pleasure to hike. At 0.6 mile enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Now watch the forest cover thin - the first groves of mountain hemlock, then brushy meadow openings sporting mountain ash and huckleberry.

Skirting the western high point of Tonga Ridge, the trail commences slightly downward. At 2 miles traverse a grassy swale (elev. 4700) that once housed a tarn. Shrubs and grasses and showy wildflowers have claimed the once water-filled depression. Pay attention to your left for an unmarked trail as you continue a short distance, reentering a forested grove.

This is the way to Mount Sawyer, a 5501 foot summit on Tonga Ridge's midsection. Brushy and steep at first, the grade soon eases and the well-defined tread becomes a pleasure to follow. As you make a long traverse across Sawyer's open and brushy southern face (the result of a fire a century ago), rugged mountains to the south come into view.

Rife with blueberry bushes and mountain ash, Sawyer's slopes are atwitter with copious birds. Watch for bears, and try not to let flushed grouse with their thunderous fleeing increase your heart rate.

Steadily ascending, the way makes a few short switchbacks before swinging west along a subalpine fir-draped ridgeline. It's then a short final climb to the old lookout site. Enjoy an awesome view into the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, where snowy, showy Mounts Daniel and Hinman dominate the scene. Rainier peaks above scores of other summits, grand and small.
Driving Directions:

Drive US 2 east to the small towon of Skykomish. Continue east for 1.9 miles (passing the Forest Service ranger station), and turn right onto Foss River Road (FR 68). Continue for 3.6 miles (the pavement ends at 1.1 miles), turning left onto FR 6830. Proceed for 6.9 miles to an unsigned junction. Bear right onto FR Spur 310, and after 1.4 miles reach the trailhead at the road's end (elev. 4300 ft.).

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 169 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer — Oct 27, 2013 — Jeb
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Road 68 is in decent shape besides about 2 dozen gnarly potholes along the way. Road 6830 had even...

Road 68 is in decent shape besides about 2 dozen gnarly potholes along the way. Road 6830 had even fewer potholes and just a few sections of wash boarded road. The lower slopes of Sobieski Mountain were visible across the Foss Creek valley on the drive up until I entered a thick fog around 3000 feet. Light snow began to fall before Road 310, and was a thin layer was already sticking in a few places. Trail 1058 was well kept to the Fisher Lake/Deception Creek Junction. I encountered several patches of firm snow above 5000 feet, mostly on the North side of Tonga Ridge. Mount Sawyer has a nice trail leading to the summit, but I found only game trails between lots of bushwhacking to the peaks to the West and East.

<a hfref="http://www.jebsjourneys.com[…]r-attempt.html">The first time I attempted to reach these summits</a> there was a large blowdown blocking Road 68 less than a mile up. We turned back about 4.5 miles up the snow-covered road when my partners waterproof boots failed him. This trip was also a backup plan, as I had intended to hit Mastiff Mountain and Mount Howard until I read about 20-30 mph winds in the NOAA forecast for the Lake Wenatchee area.

I left the trailhead at 7:30 with two dogs in tow. According to the info board Wilderness permits are required although I could not find any. We left the trail about a mile in, following what looked like a bootpath but turned out to be a game trail that disappeared into the brush after fifty feet or so. There was very little dew on the bare blueberry bushes that covered most of the landscape so we continued to the saddle west of Mount Sawyer. Even on the ridge top vegetation was occasionally very thick. We passed a few rocky outcroppings on climbers right as the North face was steeper and still very brushy below. The summit would have done beautiful views on a better day, I saw nothing but white. Human tracks could be seen in a fairly large patch of hardened snow less than a foot thick.

I found a nice trail to the Southwest with several switchbacks down to the main trail. We passed a couple with a beagle and then came upon a group of 6-10 with 2 dogs. I asked if the dogs were friendly, and before I could get Automahn leashed he charged of toward the group. He and a large weinerheimer named Shadow erupted into a ball of gnashing teeth. I tackled the two and Auto clamped down on Shadow's cheek as his owner subdued Maverick. After struggling for about 5 seconds to get Auto to let go, I remembered a crazy suggestion I had once heard which stuck with me: I used a finger on my free hand to check Auto's prostate, and sure enough he released instantly and Shadow ran off into the woods.

The woman with the beagle was kind enough to help us up and make sure nobody was injured. I got the boys leashed, and apologized for not having then on, and for their party in the scuffle. Sandra and I exchanged numbers and I left the group to allow their second dog to go in search of Shadow. I turned back five minutes later to retrieve my hat and returned to the scene as the group was heading back. Sandra had found my hat as well as her dog who was luckily unharmed as well. I will be taking the experience as a free lesson. Bringing pets into the backcountry carries serious responsibility for the safety and security of everyone on the trail.

I was still a bit on edge as we continued East on Trail 1058, keeping an eye out for a path to the left. Before I knew it we were standing at the turnoff to Fisher Lake. We explored the campsites at the junction and found a small game trail heading up towards the East peak of Tonga Ridge. The ridgewalk here was similar to Sawyer but with more exposed rock and of course more snow. The summit was unimpressive and we continued on after a few pics.

On the way out we made a last side trip up to the West Peak for more of the same whiteout views. Near the summit is a ~40' sinkhole reminiscent of cave ridge. Maybe another century of erosion? Blue sky peeked out a few times but we saw no sunshine until the drive back to Highway 2.

Pics and route map coming soon... http://www.jebsjourneys.com[…]e-peaks-of-tonga-ridge.html
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Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer — Oct 20, 2013 — Maddy
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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It was another beautiful warm sunny day in the mountains while Puget Sound wallowed in cool fog. Th...
It was another beautiful warm sunny day in the mountains while Puget Sound wallowed in cool fog. The fog was left behind just east of Index. The trailhead is 1hr 45min from South Bellevue. The dirt road is in great condition except for a short stretch with potholes. We were the only car at the trailhead at 10am. This trail is fairly short and easy but very pleasant. The tread is in very good shape and is obviously well cared for. As others have mentioned the turn off to Mt Sawyer is unmarked and can be missed if you are not looking for it. The turn off is about 2mi from the trailhead. It is about 1/10 mile beyond a small flat meadow that affords the only view up to Mt Sawyer off to the left of the trail. Mt Sawyer is the highlight of the trip so be sure to find the trail. The trail up to the peak is fairly steep but easy with poles. The trail is 98% snow free and no mud. Near the top of Mt Sawyer is some snow on the north side of the peak where poles are very helpful. Views from the top are great but trees at the top prevent a 360 view. No one else at the peak. We saw 10 people coming up as we came down. Fall color is well past peak but with backlighting it still looks nice.

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Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer — Oct 17, 2013 — Yasobara
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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We visited Tonga Ridge/Mount Sawyer. It was sunny and warm when it was cloudy in Seattle. On the way...
We visited Tonga Ridge/Mount Sawyer. It was sunny and warm when it was cloudy in Seattle. On the way to the trail we stopped at Skykomish USFS Ranger Station and used the toilet and I talked with one of the rangers. She was happy to be back to work after 16-day government shutdown but could not tell me the condition of the trails because they just started working today. There were some snow patches on the Tonga Ridge/Mount Sawyer trail. There were some in the meadows just before the fork to the spur trail to Mount Sawyer. It was easy to walk there. There also was about a foot of snow on the trail on the north side of Mount Sawyer. We used YakTrax there. Our dog loved walking on snow. We saw no one else on the trail. The color of blueberry bushes on Mount Sawyer was very beautiful when the sun was shining through them. Snow capped Glacier Peak looked great. We could even see Mount Rainier in the distance.
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Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer — Oct 05, 2013 — WeaveFam
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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It was a beautiful day and we arrived at the trail head at 11:45 am. I would recommend following th...
It was a beautiful day and we arrived at the trail head at 11:45 am. I would recommend following the printed directions rather than the coordinates as for us following the coordinates would have made us miss an important turn.

The trail started with mostly mud however after about .75 miles it turned to slushy snow the entire way to the trail junction for Mount Sawyer. There were no more huckleberry bushes as they were all covered by snow. Even though the berry bushes were covered the view of the mountains was well worth the hoof.

The main purpose of this trip report is to give a heads up that snow may now predominate the path.

Happy Trails,

JDW
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Tonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer — Oct 04, 2013 — jeffgraham
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Stopped 1/3 mile before trail head due to snow on road that was slippery. We found a nice spot on th...
Stopped 1/3 mile before trail head due to snow on road that was slippery. We found a nice spot on the road with a turnaround where we parked.
First 1/2 mile mostly bare trail, but the rest of the hike was in snow up to 8 inches deep. We hiked in 3 1/2 miles to an open area and had lunch standing up. We met two hunters. They said they were looking for bear but hadn't seen any.
Much of the hike was on a steep side slope and in places it was evident previous hikers had slipped.
The hike back was easier, especially when we got to the point where many hikers had made the snow packed.
The sun was out and the occasional view beyond the trees showed snow covered hills and even Mt. Snoqualmie.
Having gaiters was nice since I was hiking in shorts. The snow never got into my boots.
Not much elevation gain.
Not much color yet.
One section of the trail had flowing water for about 50 feet but it was easily bypassed. Some bushes were bent over the trail, but only a few.
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tonga by Dr J.jpg
The view from Tonga Ridge. Photo by Dr. J
WTA worked here!
2010, 2013
Location
Tonga Ridge (#1058)
Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1200 ft
Highest Point 5501 ft
Features
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Ridges/passes
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails #175: Skykomish
Green Trails #176: Stevens Pass

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerTonga Ridge / Mount Sawyer
47.6529333333 -121.1887
  • Trail Work 2013 Frontcountry
  • Trail Work 2010
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