Mt. Rose in the Mt. Skokomish Wilderness presents a challenge for even the most seasoned hikers. Much of the only trail to its summit, Mt. Rose Trail #814, ascends rather steeply for most of the way. Within a mile of the summit, hikers take a loop path; here they can choose the steeper Summit Route to the left or the longer and slightly more gradual Ridge Route on the right. Along the summit ridge, the trail offers fantastic southern views of Lake Cushman and the Olympic NF peaks on the lake’s southern border. Looking northward on the trail presents glimpses of the popular Mt. Ellinor, as well as Mt. Washington, Mt. Pershing, and other major peaks in the Skokomish Wilderness. For all its difficulty and limited views though, Mt. Rose does beckon some and present opportunities for other hikers.
- Get in shape in an afternoon. The 2.9-mile-long hike (6.4 miles total) to the top of Mount Rose begins at 800’ and rises to 4,300’. That 3,500’ rise over a couple of miles hurts the legs – both going up and coming down. Some three days after hiking, my quadriceps were still sore. Even the National Park Service warns of its steepness in its trail description.
- See the remnants of a recent forest fire. The vegetation near the top of Mt. Rose was mostly burned off in 2006 by the Bear Gulch 2 Fire. A sign along the trail warns of “snags and partially burnt trees” that can make the climb harder. The last quarter-mile to the summit rises very steeply through a forest of mostly bare and blackened pointy fir trees.
- Take some “King of the Mountain” shots. The best viewpoint on the trail is located within a few tenths of a mile of the forested-in summit. The viewpoint sits atop a precarious rocky outcropping with only enough room for maybe two people to perch on. However, the view shows the entire Lake Cushman and numerous peaks spread out to the south. If you hike Mt. Rose with a buddy, you could probably get some neat photos here.
- See some goats (maybe) and gray jays (definitely). Signs at the Mt. Rose trailhead warn of goats near the summit. I didn’t see any goats on Mt. Rose and I think you’re much more likely to see them atop Mt. Ellinor (however, I never saw any when I hiked Ellinor either). You will see food-snatching gray jays on the trail though.
- Brag about it to your hiker friends. Mt. Rose is considered “most difficult due to steep grades” by the NPS. I think that the hike is easily one of the steepest non-technical climbs in the Olympic NF and possibly also in the Olympic National Park. One of the few possibly steeper trails in the area is the Wagonwheel Lake Trail (beginning at Staircase RS) which ascends 3,365’ over 2.8 miles.
= Parking is limited at the trailhead and signage along the trail is so-so (it mostly consists of small orange diamonds that identify the path). When I was there in April, it looked as if crews were improving (possibly expanding) the trailhead area. Also, the trail was almost completely cleared of downed trees, even on the burned-out sections. A port-a-potty is located at the trailhead during peak seasons.
= The Lake Cushman and Staircase areas are beautifully rural without being too far off the beaten path.
Where: The trailhead is located approximately 12 miles from downtown Hoodsport off of FS Road #24. Head west on State Route 119 (located off the 101) and turn left onto FS #24. Located on the right side of the road, the trailhead parking area is identified by signs.
When: If you hike Mt. Rose anytime before May, you will likely find some snow near the top, though not enough to require crampons. Go on a clear day to get the best views and make the uphill struggle worthwhile.
Additional Info: Mt. Rose Trail #814 begins in Olympic NF before crossing into Skokomish Wilderness at about mile one. You do not need a Recreation Pass to park at the trailhead. Check out the Washington Trails Association review for a good trail description and this NPS trail map for more information.