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Custer's Bridge - Middle Tiger Loop

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
View map below

Length

11.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1600 ft.
Highest Point: 2607 ft.

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 
 

Begin your hike at the Tiger Summit Trailhead off Highway 18. The Iverson Railroad Trail begins next to the signboard and heads west, climbing 200 feet or so before leveling off. It's a nice forest walk with a lot of ferns and second-growth trees. In late winter and early spring be alert for yellow violets and trilliums along the way.

After 1.5 miles, the Iverson Trail drops a bit and joins the West Side Road (Road 1000), a gated road used by technicians servicing electronic gear. Continue west along the road a scant 0.3 miles where a "Trail Crossing" sign will alert you that the main Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) is just ahead. This section of the TMT officially is closed to mountain bikers, but you might occasionally encounter one anyway. If you do, it's best to remain friendly.

Head north on the TMT, skirting the lower edge of a large clearcut. In less than a half-mile, come to a switchback where the TMT makes a very sharp turn to the left. This kink is termed "Zeig's Zag," one of many named locations along the TMT commemorating volunteers who played a major role in its construction back in the 1970s. Unfortunately Zieg's sign is gone now, although the name still appears on the Green Trails Map. As you hike farther on the TMT be alert for additional named locations.

At the Zag, a bit of muddy trail crosses a seep and seems to continue on straight ahead. It's worth a five-minute look. In a few feet, a sign proclaims "Artifacts Trail," and in 200 feet it leads to the site of a February 23, 1925 wreck of a logging train. An official-looking sign there identifies the site, and lists the historic date. Most of the wreckage was salvaged at the time, and only a few pieces remain. A set of wheels peers out from beneath a blowdown, and other objects are strewn around. A few feet beyond the wheels, a jumble of metal pieces suggests an abstract metal sculpture. The Artifacts Trail hasn't made it onto the Green Trails Map yet, but if you have a GPS unit and use the NW Topo map it is shown there. The trail past the artifacts offers no additional train wreckage and it has many blowdowns, so you should turn around here and return to the TMT.

Continue uphill on the TMT, still in the clearcut area. Cross a logging road that heads up Karl's Peak, a minor viewpoint now topped with a crown of logging slash. From the road crossing you may be able to see part of the summit dome of Mount Rainier in the distance. Stay on the TMT. Beyond the logging road it levels off and does a forested traverse around the west side of Karl's Peak. You'll reconnect with the clearcut on the far side of the peak, at Karl's Gap.

Soon you are back in the forest and arrive at Millan's Crossing where the TMT meets the Middle Tiger Trail. To the left, the Middle Tiger Trail drops almost 1000 feet in less than a mile to reach the West Side Road. To the right, the Middle Tiger "summit" is only 0.3 mile away and just over 400 feet higher than the TMT. But that route offers no views so it's best saved for your return loop.

Continue on the TMT, passing Denny's Bulge and Hal's Cove. But when you come to a sign with an arrow pointing straight ahead to "Hobart Grade," don't go there. That's a side trail that heads downhill to join the Hobart Middle Tiger RR Grade, a different hike. Instead, take the easily-overlooked right turn to remain on the TMT. Pass Paul's Cove, and begin to hear the sounds of Fifteen Mile Creek down below.

Custer's Bridge comes up quickly and it's a great place for a break. In the Tigers, gated service roads are never far away, but in terms of distance to a public trailhead, Custer's Bridge is as remote a location as you are likely to find. You might have it all to yourself. The bridge is a low, rustic structure crossing the head of Fifteen Mile Creek. In spring, look along the banks for skunk cabbage. In summer, when the vegetation is so thick you may have difficulty seeing down to the water, look for ripe salmonberries and a few wildflowers. Any time, spring through fall, the bridge is a pleasant stopping point so why not pause here, enjoy a sip and a snack, and relax for a few minutes to the soft sounds of the flowing stream?

When you are ready to continue, take the TMT a few feet uphill to its junction with the Fifteen Mile RR Grade. Leave the TMT and follow the RR Grade 0.2 miles NE to Fifteen Mile Pass and the Main Tiger Mountain Road (Road 4000.) This once was the location of the Paw Print Rest Stop, an informal picnic area along the utility road. But early in 2014 it was bulldozed to provide an access road for logging on West Tiger Mountain. The Clivus toilet still is there but the former picnic tables are long-gone, and there is little reason to stop there now.

Head south for a mile on the Main Tiger Mountain Road. You are unlikely to see much traffic, perhaps just a utility truck or a mountain biker. Turn right on the obvious, gated Middle Tiger road/trail. This backside approach to Middle Tiger Mountain offers great views across the canyon of Fifteen Mile Creek. All of West Tiger Mountain, with its crown of electronics towers, is visible. Off to the east, some Cascade peaks can be seen. And there is even a quick view of some of the Olympics. Folks who hike Middle Tiger Mountain from the south side and return the same way miss all of this.

Eventually, the route becomes a narrow forest trail and climbs to the gently rounded 2,607 foot summit of Middle Tiger Mountain. The Green Trails map indicates a view there, but it's long been obscured by the vigorous growth of small trees. The summit may sport a small teepee-shaped frame of dead branches, although without a cover it would provide no shelter.

Now, you can head down the trail on the south-side of Middle Tiger and soon rejoin the TMT at Millan's Crossing, completing your loop. From there, return back to your trailhead the way you came, via the TMT, the West Side Road and the Iverson Railroad Trail.

 

Custer's Bridge - Middle Tiger Loop

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.4683, -121.9363 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region

(Dan A. Nelson--Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green TrailsTiger Mountain No. 204S map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

From I-90 a few miles east of Issaquah, take Exit 25 and head south on Highway 18. In about four miles, turn off to the right at Tiger Summit. Watch for potholes as you leave the pavement. Continue on Road 1000 a quarter mile to the trailhead parking area, just before you reach a locked gate. A toilet is available, but no regular water source.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 

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Custer's Bridge - Middle Tiger Loop

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