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Mount Defiance

Snoqualmie Region > Snoqualmie Pass
47.4247, -121.5835 Map & Directions
Length
11.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
3584 feet
Highest Point
5584 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Hard
Mount Defiance in morning light. Photo by Quantum Guru. Full-size image

Hike trails though sub-alpine forest and across boulder fields and, in season, enjoy a multitude of wildflowers. Pass a beautiful mountain lake. Ascend to a 5584-foot summit and enjoy incredible views of Cascade peaks and nearby lakes. Continue reading

  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Summits
  • Lakes

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
Rating
4.39 out of 5

(49 votes) Log in to rate

Hiking Mount Defiance

From the Ira Spring trailhead, hike an old logging grade graced in spring with twinflowers, tiger lilies and other forest flowers. Climb steadily uphill and, in a half-mile, come to Mason Creek. Pause here to take in the view of 5162-foot McClellan Butte to the south. It will be visible for much of your hike, but it is most dramatic from this lower vantage. Once you reach the summit of 5584-foot Mount Defiance you will be over 400 feet higher than McClellan.

Mason Creek, in late spring or summer, is easily crossed on boulders or small logs. But in early spring, with snow melting rapidly above, the creek can become a torrent, but luckily, thanks to the efforts of volunteer crews and the generosity of the Spring Trust for Trails, a sturdy footbridge has been installed across the creek, and hikers can safely cross it in all seasons.

Continue on the logging grade a while, then leave the grade for a steeper climb with a few switchbacks. Look for the summit dome of Mount Rainier to appear over the southern horizon and, in more open areas along the trail, be alert for Indian paintbrush and lupine. When the trail passes through a short, dark forest section you may see a few stalks of coralroot in bloom.

The trail emerges onto boulder fields, but with comfortable footing. In late spring or early summer you will be surrounded by a forest of beargrass interspersed with other flowers. Mount Defiance will be visible up ahead. Hike past the side trail to Bandera Mountain and press on toward Mason Lake. At the ridge top a memorial plaque honors Ira Spring, the well-known advocate for trails. Look for it just before descending some 200 feet toward Mason Lake.

There is more shade on the north side of the ridge and, early in the season, the trail may still be moist or even muddy in spots. At the outlet of the lake cross Mason Creek once again, this time on secure boulders, and continue on. Soon, a sign for "Main Trail" points up some stepping stones while a lower trail leads to possible camp sites or fishing access.

Farther along, the trail forks. A small sign will direct you to the right fork for the Main Trail. (The left branch would lead you into a swampy area and, eventually, to Little Mason Lake.) The right branch is your route for Mount Defiance, and in spring or early summer it too can have significant muddy spots. About 0.3 miles from the lake outlet come to a signed T-junction with the Mount Defiance Trail (#1009,) and turn left there.

The route climbs steeply up the forested, shady east slope of Mount Defiance, with a few switchbacks. The way can be quite rooty and moist, and patches of snow can linger here well into July. Footprints in the snow, left by earlier hikers, will likely be visible, and the trail itself may reappear from time to time. Later in the summer the snow will be completely gone, the footing drier and the trail clear.

The route winds around the south side of Mount Defiance where the snow disappears much earlier. After a few more switchbacks it emerges into a meadow. There, as the last of the snow is melting - perhaps in early June - a multitude of glacier lilies appears. But they are early bloomers, and to see them you may have to tolerate a few snow patches on Defiance's shady east side. As the season progresses other flowers will appear in the meadow.

The trail traverses the meadow to its west end, where an unsigned but obvious route heads steeply upslope. It's rough, but easily followed and not dangerous. Trekking poles might be helpful. After a gain of less than 400 feet you will be on the stony summit of Mount Defiance.

Take in the views in every direction. Clouds permitting, a wide swath of summits will be visible from Mounts Adams and Rainier in the south to Mount Baker in the far north, with a host of Cascade peaks in between. Nearby, look for Granite and Bandera Mountains, and to the west look for Dirty Harry's Peak, Russian Butte, and Mount Teneriffe. The lake 1800 feet below is Lake Kulla Kulla. Often you will see sunlight glinting off ripples on its surface. Other, smaller lakes are visible too. Check your map and try to identify some of them, and perhaps identify additional peaks as well. Mount Defiance is an exceptional viewpoint for learning the layout of the surrounding terrain.

WTA Pro-Tip: On a summer afternoon, uphill hikers may find temperatures on the boulder fields uncomfortably warm. Unless it's a really cool day, consider beginning your hike at an early hour.

WTA worked here in 2018, 2014 and 2013!

Hike Description Written by
Alan Gibbs, WTA Correspondent

Mount Defiance

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.4247, -121.5835 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Head east on I-90. Some 44 miles west of Seattle, take Exit 45 (Forest Road 9030.) The pavement ends in a quarter mile, and beyond that there may be significant potholes. At a fork 0.8 miles from I-90 take the left branch onto Road 9031. The right branch, Road 9030, goes to the Talapus Lake trailhead. At 3.8 miles from I-90, reach the large parking area for the Ira Spring Trail (#1038.) A privy is available, but no regular water source. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Be aware that this is a very popular trailhead; parking can be quite crowded here on a weekend. Take heed of the No Parking areas -- the Forest Service regularly checks this area and will issue tickets for violations.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

Snoqualmie Region > Snoqualmie Pass

Ira Spring Trail (#1038), Mount Defiance Trail (#1009)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region

Dan A. Nelson

Mountaineers Books (2007)

Buy the Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass Gateway No. 207S map

Download a map to plan your hike

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Mount Defiance

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