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Westside Road

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There are 8 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Emerald Ridge, Westside Road, South Puyallup To Wonderland — Oct 26, 2013 — Stephen
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Beautiful day at Mt. Rainier. Didn't see a single person until later afternoon on my way back down t...
Beautiful day at Mt. Rainier. Didn't see a single person until later afternoon on my way back down the Westside road. I wanted to try the loop to Emerald Ridge but I had issues following the Tahoma Creek trail. So I gave up and returned to the Westside road and took it all the way to the Round Pass trail then onto to the South Puyallup trail and finally onto the Wonderland trail. The last mile or so to Emerald Ridge was a rocky slog. Perhaps the many miles of road walking and not getting the big payoff until almost the very end is why not many people take this hike. Views of the mountain were awesome. It's sad to see the glaciers disappearing but on the bright side you get to the complete devastation they leave behind. Saw some goats on the opposite side of the valley. Didn't hit snow until the last half mile or so. It was a little slippy and I had my microspikes so I used them but I'm sure most would just go it boots. It was a long day but the solitude and views were great. Looks like Seattle was socked in again so getting out to the mountain was definitely the right call.
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Gobblers Knob, Westside Road — Aug 04, 2013 — LEG PWR
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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I debated whether to take the Westside Road route to approach Gobbler’s Knob from the east, or com...
I debated whether to take the Westside Road route to approach Gobbler’s Knob from the east, or come in from the west via trail 248 . Ultimately, I chose the former. From where Westside Road is barricaded, I walked the 3.7 miles of gentle uphill gravel road to Round Pass. I took note of the coarseness of the rock and gravel, and decided that a mountain bike wasn’t even necessary. A bicycle with hybrid tires would be better.

There were a few black flies, but most of the time I was moving too quickly for them to be a problem. A couple of horseflies buzzed me for quite a while though. At 3.7 miles, I saw the mangled bicycle rack that marks the start of the trail.

The trail is a pleasant departure from the road, shaded and well maintained. The only blowdown had been recently cleared. Beyond Lake George, 0.8 mile up the trail, the route gets moderately steeper, but still not too bad. A patch of avalanche lilies were fading fast. Higher up some tiger lilies were in full bloom. At about a mile past Lake George mosquitos started attacking. About 150 yards further, I saw why. There was a shallow pond with a nearby patch of snow - breeding grounds. I continued past quickly, switchbacking steeply uphill. At 2.1 trail miles, I reached the junction and headed up the final 400 feet in 0.4 mile to the lookout tower at Gobbler’s Knob. Total distance one-way was 6.2 miles. Having walked the road briskly, I made it in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

The top of Rainier was obscured by clouds, but the lower part of the mountain was visible. You can look straight up the Puyallup River drainage. To the right is the broad creek bed of Tahoma Creek. Several lakes and ponds were visible from the 360 degree view afforded by the lookout tower deck and the rock outcroppings at the base of the tower.

12.2 miles doesn’t seem like an excessive day hike distance, but my feet were very sore already two miles before I got back to the car. All that walking on the hard road surface had taken its toll. Still, my total time heading back was just 2 hours. With a bicycle, this would be a clear choice for getting to Gobbler’s Knob.
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Klapatche Park, Westside Road, Denman Falls — Jun 15, 2013 — 1BLESSEDX3
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Washouts | Snow on trail
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It was 10:00 AM when we departed Port Orchard in route to our next Mount Rainier adventure. Our des...
It was 10:00 AM when we departed Port Orchard in route to our next Mount Rainier adventure. Our destination upon our arrival was Klapatche Park/St. Andrews Lake.
 
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was supposed to be close to 80 degrees. We had a pleasant drive with beautiful views of Mount Rainier along the way. We arrived at the Nisqually entrance, surprised that there wasn’t a huge line of cars waiting to enter Mount Rainier National Park, but happy at the same time.

Once we passed through the Nisqually entrance, we turned left onto Westside road. We drove 3 miles up Westside road until we reached a gate where we would park our vehicle and hit the trail. Like the Carbon River Road, this road was washed out by flooding and now is closed to motorized vehicles. I was a bit nervous and apprehensive about this particular hike as round trip is approximately 21 miles. That is a lot to do in one day and it’s the most I’ve hiked in a day hike. Oh and let me say, this was not just a hike this was a bike/hike. This would be only my 3rd time on a bike in 25 years and given I struggled some on the 17.5 mile Carbon River Glacier bike/hike two weeks before, I was a little worried about how I would do on the bike.

We ate lunch before we headed out. It was 1230 PM when we started and the sun was at it’s peak. Initially it was alright, pretty straight forward ride down the road. At about ¼ mile you have to get off your bike and carry it across a small log bridge to the other side. Then the fun begins.

There was little to no shade and the sun was just beating down on us. We got really hot really fast. Although not terribly steep in appearance, you immediately start climbing in a slow subtle uphill direction. My boyfriend, rode his bike with endurance and stamina (those hours in the gym and spin class have paid off). I on the other hand struggled with the slightest incline and found myself hot, frustrated and not such a happy camper. I came up over this hill to find my bo waiting for me at the top. It was a nice resting spot alongside the Tahoma Creek. It’s here that we both took off our t-shirts we had on leaving us in just tank tops. The water was cold and refreshing to the touch. I almost could’ve taken a nice little dip in it…..LOL

Onward we go. We continued on gradually making our way up what seemed like forever (maybe that’s because I was walking my bike not riding it). It’s interesting the things you see and find when you step off the beaten path. We came upon a Marine Memorial at about 4 or so miles in that was dedicated to Marines who lost their lives on December 10, 1946, when their C-46 transport plane en route to Seattle, crashed high on the South Tahoma Glacier on Mount Rainier's South Side, killing all 32 Marines onboard. Someone had recently been up there and placed American Flags at the head of the memorial and along it’s sidewalk.

Once we departed the Marine Memorial, it was all downhill. This was one of the best parts for me…LOL Although, the thought of having to climb this on the way back was in the back of my mind. There were several downed trees along the way (approximately 10, maybe less). Several are blocking the road and we had to lift our bikes over or walk them around the trees. It wasn’t a show stopper, but something to keep in mind especially if your flying down hill on your bike and you have to stop suddenly to avoid a downed tree. Also in one particular area, there were quite a few rocks on the road to navigate around. They were not huge, but could cause you to crash or damage your bike if you hit one.
We finally made it to the trailhead. We weren't sure what time we got there because neither of us had a watch and I forgot my cell phone in the car. We estimated it was probably about 4/4:30. We went 300 feet from the trailhead to check out the Patrol Cabin. There are a couple patches of snow but nothing much. The cabin was in great condition. There was an outhouse back behind the cabin and there was a nice creek nearby. We were trying to decide whether we had enough time to do the hike to Klapatche Park/St. Andrews Lake, which was 5.2 miles round trip.

We decided we made it this far and we had enough daylight left that we could do it. So we proceeded. Let me just say, I was exhausted before we even started the hike, but we were in the shade of the forest. It was lush and green with lots of new growth. This trail was uphill all the way. Lots of switch backs that were pretty steep. I have to say for me, I was saying to myself “I DO NOT WANT TO SEE ANOTHER HILL TODAY.” I was not a happy camper at this point. My boyfriend was waiting for me at the top of one of the switchbacks as we got ready to round the corner to another and I said “Next time, I will be picking the hike” It was all in fun. At about the 2 mile mark we hit snow. From this point on there was still about 1-2 feet of snow on the ground. There were no tracks in the snow indicating anyone had been up this far yet but us. We could not determine where the trail was, so we walked a little ways through the snow to a viewpoint, took a few pictures and decided to turn around and head back down. Without knowing where the trail was, we decided it was best to play it safe and not continue farther.

The return trip down the trail was great. I was able to enjoy it and take in the beauty of the forest. Once we made it to the trailhead, we went across to Denman’s Falls Loop Trail and viewpoint. There is a large downed tree blocking the trail to the viewpoint that we had to climb over, but let me tell you the view was worth it. The waterfall was amazing, one of the best we’ve seen in the park. We tried to do the short loop, but it was impassable due to downed trees and debris.
We began our trek back to the trailhead where our vehicle was parked. We knew it was going to be a long uphill climb back to the Marine Memorial, but once we made it there, it would all be downhill. Neither of us attempted to ride our bikes uphill. We both walked them. Although, he may have just been being nice and walking his because he knew there was no way I’d be able to make it up the hill on my bike. I just don’t have the endurance for that yet. We were both exhausted and our legs were tired and sore.

One thing I know for sure, this road appears to be a favorite place for wildlife, especially bear and elk. Although we didn’t see any on the road, there was tons of fresh bear scat all up and down the road and elk scat as well. I’m glad we didn’t have to walk this in the dark. Kept a watchful eye out but didn’t see or hear anything except an owl that was hoot hoot hooting in the trees.

We had an amazing downhill ride from the Marine Memorial back to the truck. We stopped before the end and admired the beautiful waterfalls cascading off the rock face, not just one but probably between 3-5 waterfalls. We didn’t even notice this at the start of our journey. On top of it, we saw a whole herd of mountain goats up on the rock face near the falls. We made it back to the truck at 8:30 PM

Even though this was strenuous and mentally challenging trip for me, it was worth it in the end. Even if I get frustrated and maybe even a bit grumpy at times, I’m always up for a challenge and I will not quit. In my Army days, we had this saying “No Finish Line” meaning we always pushed forward as if there was no finish line. Never quitting and never giving up even when things get tough. There are so many beautiful places to explore and so many things left to see and do, this is just one more place we can check off our list. Now to plan for our next big trip.

Happy Hiking!
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Westside Road, South Puyallup To Klapatche, South Puyallup To Wonderland, Gobblers Knob — Aug 25, 2011 — brimworks
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | Snow on trail | Bugs
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On Thursday we drove to Longmire to get permits for a two night hike. Unfortunately, our desired ca...
On Thursday we drove to Longmire to get permits for a two night hike. Unfortunately, our desired campsites (Klapatche Park and South Puyallup River) where booked, so we settled on spending our first night at North Puyallup River and our second night at Lake George.

This demanded us to hike 10.6 miles from the Westside Road trail head to the North Puyallup River via the old Westside Road, with the exception of taking Round Pass Trail, and a small detour to Denham falls which broke up the monotony of road hiking. In fact, I was surprised to find out that the North Puyallup River campsite is built on the old road bed. This meant the entire trail was gradual elevation gains and losses. The only difficulties was a small 1 mile section of the North Puyallup Trail which was overgrown. Apparently the trail crew that was "mowing" down this section of trail stopped 2/3rds of the way in. Even though I was in shorts, I didn't get beat up to badly, and it certainly wasn't bad enough to require a machete.

The North Puyallup River Campground is in a bit of a "hole" which means it doesn't get a lot of sunlight and GPS signals are weak. That night we had two other groups that where doing the full wonderland trail camping with us.

The next morning was our most difficult day. ~2,000 feet of elevation gain hiking 2.8 miles (but on my GPS watch it thought it was only 2 miles) up to Klapatche Park. This hill is all north facing which made it nice and cool. We encountered a few snow patches, but nothing to bad. At the top, the view was absolutely stunning! The alpine meadows meld with alpine lakes and spectacular Mt. Rainier vistas. This is what we came to soak in, so we dilly-dallied and ate lunch between Klapatche Park and St. Andrews Lake, but at last, it was getting close to 2PM and we still had a good 7 miles of hiking to do, so we descended the ridge and went to the South Puyallup Campground. Between St. Andrews Lake and the South Puyallup campground there are a few tricky snow fields where you can get lost if you are not paying attention... and if it had been icy, I would have felt much less comfortably traversing these sections.

At the South Puyallup campground we had to say goodbye to the wonderland trail and hike the South Puyallup Trail to Rounds Pass, then Rounds Pass to Gobblers Knob trail and camp at Lake George. There is some nice columnar basalt not more than 0.1 miles off the wonderland trail. This is a very beautiful rock formation, and definitely a worthwhile diversion if you are planning on sticking to the wonderland trail.

We got into Lake George at about 5PM, set-up camp and ate dinner. From Lake George, the view of Mt. Rainier is obscured by trees, but it does give you a taste of what the vista is like from Gobblers Knob. So, I put on my sandals and hiked the 1,000 feet of elevation/1.6 miles up to Gobblers Knob as fast as I could so there would be enough sunlight to get back off the Knob before sunset. This took me about 40 minutes at a brisk pace. There are a few snow fields along this trail. One snow field is over the outlet of a very small lake. Be careful to traverse over the snow covered bridge to avoid falling into the creek.

The view at Gobblers Knob was arguably the best view of Mt. Rainier all day. Up at Klapatche Park you are almost "to close" to the mountain, but the view from Gobblers Knob is still close enough to be "in your face".

The next morning we hiked back out to the Westlake Road trail head in under 2 hours.

Note that bugs are an issue everywhere, so be sure to bring DEET.
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Westside Road, South Puyallup To Klapatche, Klapatche Park — Jul 24, 2010 — jpbebeau
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail | Bugs
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As always, full report at the blog: http://dontlookdown.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/klapatche-park-0724...
As always, full report at the blog: http://dontlookdown.wordpress.com/[…]/
And more pictures at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/

***

When I first flipped through my copy of 50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park and saw Ira Spring’s photograph of Klapatche Park, the destination shot to the top of my to-hike list. And like most locations on my to-hike list, it just stayed there. I was reminded of it again last year, while watching The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, which briefly flashed another Ira Spring photograph of the same location, this one from many years earlier.

The problem is, Klapatche Park isn’t all that easy to get to. In the not-too-distant past, one could park their car within three miles of it, but the road washed out twenty-one years ago and left the western side of The Mountain more isolated than most of the rest.

After walking the more recently decommissioned Carbon River Road earlier this year, I decided that it was time to walk the Westside Road and visit the fabled Klapatche. The weekend’s weather would be perfect, and from what I’d read on the Mt. Rainier National Park website, snow levels seemed pretty favorable, too.

This trip would be solo.

I packed my bag Friday night, but ended up transferring everything into my bigger pack early Saturday morning, when I tried in vain to add my full water bladder to a bag already breaching its capacity. I left West Seattle at 06:15, a little later than I would’ve liked, but still early enough to miss most traffic. The rangers at Longmire happily issued my permit for Klapatche Park, and told me that the campsites were all snow-free. I was glad that there were permits available so I didn’t have to change my plans.

At 08:55, I left my Subaru parked just outside the gate on the Westside Road, 2900’. A couple jumped on their bicycles and headed up the road just before me. Bicycling the road is completely acceptable, and it definitely makes some of these destinations easier to get to. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bike suitable for such trips, so I’d be walking the whole way. With the weight of my backpack, I doubt I could’ve kept a bike upright anyway. As an aside: to my untrained eye the road seems like it could be easily repaired and is in great shape for most of its length.

The Westside Road initially follows Tahoma Creek. There are glimpses of the creek’s namesake glaciers, but the road quickly turns away and The Mountain is hidden from view for much of the trip.

At 1.2 miles, there’s a small spooky viewpoint/picnic area/trailhead called Tahoma Vista. I halfheartedly looked around and didn’t see the viewpoint—I didn’t feel like exploring. Instead, I kept walking the uphill road until 10:15, when I reached Round Pass—4000’ and 3 miles from the gate. I was surprised to see a pickup truck and three or four tents and a gazebo set up in front of the trailhead to Gobbler’s Knob. The trailhead was very well marked; there were about 50 arrows etched into the gravel road and several helpful messages in stone. It was so well marked (<- <- <- TRAIL!!!) that I briefly wondered if it was perhaps the only trail on the entire road. But I walked a hundred feet more and saw both a second trailhead and a Marine Memorial, placed within sight of the South Tahoma Glacier where 32 Marines died in a plane crash in 1946.

At this point, I hadn’t yet decided on the route I’d take to Klapatche. I could either continue on the road until I reached the St. Andrews Creek trailhead or take the South Puyallup trail to The Wonderland Trail through St. Andrews Park. The Puyallup route would be more scenic, but would be a bit more difficult and I’d probably run into snow at the higher elevations. I decided on leaving the road anyway, figuring that I’d take the road on the way back.

So I stepped off of the road onto the Round Pass trail, which—after a brief 3/5ths of a mile and 500’ of elevation loss—turns into the South Puyallup trail. It was nice to be in the shade of trees and have the soft earth below my feet instead of the hot gravel. The trail was in good shape; it seems like it’s been/is being worked on. Just before South Puyallup Camp I stopped to photograph the columnar andesite formations along the trail.

I reached the intersection with The Wonderland Trail at 11:45, 2.1 miles from Round Pass (5.1 miles from the road closure). I crossed the bridge over the muddy river and took a long look up at The Mountain before I started climbing the constant switchbacks toward St. Andrews Park.

The day was heating up. The load, mileage, temperature, elevation gain, and lack of a decent breakfast were wearing me down. Progress became slow. Eventually, avalanche lilies appeared at the side of the trail. Their presence inspired me. I could see a patch of blue at the end of a long westerly switchback. At 01:25, I reached the ridge-top, exhausted. I could see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens to the south and the Olympics in the west. The trail turned east now; patches of snow appeared, and—after post-holing several times through to the trail—I shuffled atop the snow aside the trail, following a set or two of footsteps.

I looked up from one such footstep to see a beautiful cinnamon-colored black bear run across the trail in front of me, followed immediately by a cute little cub. I stood in silence for a moment, then struggled to hold back a cheer of pure delight, only partially successful. I immediately thought of Nicole, who would’ve loved the moment as well.

Concurrently, my quads had begun to cramp up. I worked my way over to a patch of dry ground—by now it was hard to find one—and collapsed for a few minutes. But I knew I had to continue, and after eating my third bar-shaped snack of the day, I did. Where the path turned from the ridge and began across the St. Andrews basin, I met a ranger, only the second person I’d seen since leaving the South Puyallup. We spoke briefly. My permit led him to believe I’d be exiting via the White River the next day. “It says that?!” I said. I wasn’t looking forward to even my road walk out, at this point. “I think you’ll have Klapatche all to yourself tonight,” he said. I hoped so!

The trail traverses the east side of the basin, crossing several patches of snow. I took advantage of the ranger’s fresh steps all the way to St. Andrews Lake, elevation 5891’.

There, I met the couple that had left on their bikes just ahead of me—they’re the only thing that kept me from another controlled collapse. They were just in for the day. I was jealous of their bikes, they were jealous that I’d be spending the night. I agree with them. I snapped their picture, declined when they offered to take mine, and continued on, knowing I was very close to Aurora Lake, Klapatche Park, and taking off my backpack.

At 3:15, I was there. I took a look at the lake and The Mountain and stumbled in to a campsite. After a nice long rest on the ground, I found the toilet and took a look at the 4 campsites at Klapatche, choosing beautiful #3. I set up camp, fetched water, and made myself some mashed potatoes. I was starving. But, on my hike in I remembered that I’d left my spoon at home (in addition to my compass and knife, which stayed in the first backpack). I made use of my time walking to brainstorm up an eating utensil, and decided I’d use a piece of crescent plastic that’s part of my water filter. It worked alright...

I wandered around in the late afternoon, scouting locations I’d return to after a brief rest on the sleeping pad. Then, after that rest, it was photos until the sun set and the mosquitoes came on stronger.(1)

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! It was everything I hoped it’d be, and it was just me and The Mountain. I fell asleep easily, wishing—to a tune—that Nicole were there with me.

In the early morning I woke up to the sound of a hooting owl and the silver glow of the trees in the full moon. If I hadn’t been so tired, I might’ve snuck out to the lake to see if The Mountain was glowing in the moonlight, too. I’m sure it was, but I’m thankful that I can at least imagine it...

At 07:30, I started down the St. Andrews Creek trail. I was content with my time at Klapatche, and ready to head home. I gradually descended 1700’ from camp to the road, which I reached at 08:40. Aside from the route out being an arguably easier walk, it gave me the opportunity to take a small side trail to Denman Falls. Adding an extra 1/2 mile to my day was worth it. It’s a beautiful waterfall viewed from an overgrown overlook. I don’t know if it’s possible to reach the base of the falls, but I’d love to see it from that angle.

I left the falls at 09:15 and slowly worked my way out of the wilderness. After reaching Round Pass at 10:45, I saw a handful of people, then a handful more as I approached the gate. My boots and socks were off at noon. My gear was in the car, and I was on the road. Once back on blacktop, I could see that the park was going to be very busy. I was amazed at the solitude I’d experienced at a popular location in the middle of summer.

I had a hamburger in Ashford and was back in West Seattle by 14:30.

Klapatche: goal achieved.

Stats:
07/24: ~9.1 miles, ~3500’ of elevation gain (~1000’ loss), ~6:00 from car to camp.
07/25: ~12.0 miles, ~3100’ of elevation loss (~500’ gain), ~4:30 from camp to car.
Trip: ~21.1 miles, ~4000’ of gain/loss.

(1)The bugs were pretty bad at dawn and dusk, but respected the DEET, and weren’t terrible otherwise.
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Mt. Rainier

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