Mount Townsend hike

One of the most hiked summits in the Olympics, and it's easy to see why this peak is so popular. Easy access, a long hiking season, and unparalleled views of Puget Sound and the eastern half of the Olympics give Mount Townsend quite an edge. Of the three trails leading to its summit, Trail No. 839 is the route most taken. It's not the shortest way, but it offers incredible biological diversity and one of the best built and maintained trails in the Buckhorn Wilderness.

Most hikers intent on reaching the 6280-foot open summit opt to begin their journey from the upper trailhead. This saves 1.2 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain, but at the expense of missing a beautiful old-growth forest and Sink Lake, a small body of water that causes tumbling Townsend Creek to disappear.

If you opt to skip the glories of the old growth, start from the upper trailhead (elev. 3400 ft). the well-worn path climbs steadily through a stately grove of fir and hemlock adorned with Pacific rhododendrons. In 0.5 mile the trail enters the Buckhorn Wilderness. Soon afterward the terrain opens up and the views begin. Through flower gardens and by cascading creeks the trail pushes toward the clouds. Over two dozen switchbacks will keep you heading in the right direction: that's up!

At 2.5 miles come to a small pine and fir grove nestled on a knoll, where tiny (and in season, buggy) Windy Lake is hidden just off the trail. Continue onward, passing the Silver Lakes Trail junction at 3 miles (elev. 5500 ft) and leaving the trees behind. As you ascend higher on Townsend's slopes, alpine tundra rolls out.

After another 0.5 mile of climbing from the Silver Lakes turnoff, reach the expansive and open summit plateau. Ground-hugging juniper and brilliant clumps of cinquefoil and phlox carpet this high country. Amble 0.5 mile farther, yielding to eagles and angels. A short side trail leads right to the mountain's highest point.

Puget Sound with its labyrinth of islands, bays, and channels sprawls below. Watch ferries ply azure waters. Gaze out at the Seattle skyline to glass and metal twinkling in the afternoon sunlight. A fortress of Cascade peaks, punctuated by the snowy volcanoes, occupies the eastern horizon. To the north lie Dungeness Spit, Discovery Bay, the San Juan Islands, and Vancouver Island. To the west, nothing but pure Olympic wilderness-jagged peaks and deep green valleys. It should be apparent why this peak remains so well-loved.

Driving Directions:

From Quilcene drive US 101 south for 1.5 miles. (From Shelton follow US 101 north for 50.5 miles.) Turn right (west) onto Penny Creek Road. After 1.5 miles bear left onto Big Quilcene River Road (Forest Road 27). Drive 13.5 miles, ignoring the sign at 12.5 miles for the Mount Townsend Trail (that's the lower trail to Sink Lake). Turn left onto FR[masked] and in 0.75 mile come to the trailhead.

 

Location: Mount Townsend (#839), Olympics -- East Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal Ranger District

Statistics: Roundtrip 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2900 ft
Highest Point: 6280 ft
Features: Old growth, Wildflowers/Meadows, Mountain views, Summits

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  • Jeff G.

    Really fun hike with a good group.

    2 · July 16, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Please post about trail conditions- I'll be doing this hike on Sunday. Thanks!

    July 15, 2013

    • Regina

      Mary, for updated trail info please call the Quilcene ranger station at[masked], trail conditions can change quickley ftom one day to the next

      July 15, 2013

    • Regina

      Mary, trail was excellent but please call the ranger station for updated trail information.

      1 · July 16, 2013

  • Regina

    FABULOUS! Great company, wonderful scenery and amazing wildflower show.

    1 · July 16, 2013

  • Michael S

    I have to cancel. Just got injection in shoulder for bursitis this morning and need to rest the arm for a few days. Sorry for last minute.

    July 15, 2013

    • Regina

      Sorry you can't make this hike, maybe next time.

      July 15, 2013

  • Regina

    Bill V call me[masked]

    July 15, 2013

  • Bill V

    Car's in the shop so can't go.

    July 15, 2013

  • Susan

    I understand a spot opened, I'M GOING!
    Please confirm, thank you. Susan

    1 · July 10, 2013

    • Regina

      See you tomorrow Susan.

      July 15, 2013

  • Regina

    Hi folks, just an update: there is a pond near Camp Windy to refill water, please bring a filter. ALSO: it is supposed to be 75 and sunny WITH a chance of possible thunde
    rshowers in the afternoon. Please be prepared for rain and possible colder weather.

    July 15, 2013

  • Susan

    I'm in for Mt Townsend, plus 1 friend. Susan

    July 13, 2013

  • Susan

    I'm joining the hike for Tuesday to Mt Townsend, Susan.

    July 13, 2013

  • Susan

    Hello, any chance to get on to a waiting list? Please.

    June 15, 2013

  • Regina

    Ranger Contact: Quilcene Ranger District -[masked] Hwy. 101 S. (360)[masked]

    May 26, 2013

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