May 05, 2012
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Easton Ridge
- Region: Snoqualmie Pass -- Snoqualmie Pass
- Agency: Cle Elum Ranger District
- Trails: Easton Ridge (#1212)
- Avg Rating: 2.50
- Why You Should Go Now
- Wildflowers blooming
- Be Aware Of
- Snow on trail
But if you're a wildflower enthusiast this hike is a must. There aren't any big flower meadows, though; the treasures here are more subtle. There are some rare species, yes, but the most interesting aspect of this area is the unusual distributions of plants, such as the big clumps of yellow Glacier Lilies popping out of the ground in the middle of a mat of Oregon Stonecrop just a few feet from the trailhead, all clinging to precipitous cliffs rising above Silver Creek. There is also an area, a bit off-trail and very small, that harbors one of the largest populations anywhere of a rare orchid (I'll leave it to the student to discover - no collectors please, as digging these up will invariably kill them). The mix of species is also very interesting, a jumble of west side / east side plants typical of this transition zone. If you're interested, read the excellent article in the current issue (May / June 2012) of Washington Trails Magazine for some useful tips on flower hunting.
But there's much more. The area is well known for wildlife, from elk and mountain goats to wolves, and lots of raptors. Today I saw mountain goats wandering the rock outcrops of Kachess Ridge and lots of elk-sign (i.e. poop) on the trail. As I sat eating lunch I listened to a flock of crows mobbing an owl, which eventually flew by just feet from my dining area a few minutes later, hotly pursued by the black flock that reminded me of a scene from Game of Thrones. In the snowdrifts near the ridge I saw many animal tracks as well, some pretty big.
Another attraction here is Silver Creek, tumbling over a small dam by the bridge near the trailhead, one of the prettiest creeks in the Cascades. The creek runs high all summer, fed by slow-melting snow from the deep shade of Kachess Ridge (note: this is the only source of water in this area).
The trails here are great for early spring hiking as the snowpack is not as deep as west side slopes; the gravel road leading in from I-90 usually is one of the first to melt out and is often accessible all winter long. The snow is unusually heavy this year, yet I still made it to the ridge with no problem (using Microspikes since it gets pretty steep near the ridge).
Spring is the best time to hike here. The trail runs along the south face of Easton Ridge, and tends to be hot and dusty during summer. So to see it at its best, now's the time. The wildflowers, late this year, will peak in a week or two depending on the weather.
The directions I've seen in guidebooks are not very good, being vague or downright erroneous. Here's how to get there:
From Seattle, take I-90 to Exit 70 (Easton). Turn left and cross over the highway, then left again at the stop sign. Drive about a mile and look for the gravel road turning right and signed as "Kachess Dam". Follow this road (FS Road 4818) for a mile, eschewing all side roads. Look for a big tree on the right with a pink diamond marker and go right here. Follow for 1/2 mile to the trailhead (actually a triple trailhead, so you have a choice of trails).