Approximately 30 miles east of Seattle, Washington
, right along I-90, is a little town known as North Bend, Washington
. It's a rather unremarkable little place, with a decent sized outlet mall
, and it's seen a bit of growth, due to it's proximity to Seattle and that city's recent growth spurt.
In the background of the town is a mountain. It's not altogether that large compared to the nearby Cascade Mountains, but at 4,167 feet (1,270 meters) high, it's still pretty sizeable. And when you examine the fact that most of the land right around the mountain is quite flat, it really leaps out at you. That mountain is Mount Si, now part of the Mount Si Preservation Area, managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
Mount Si is not just a mountain - it's probably the most popular destination for Seattle-area day hikers. It's not because it's an easy hike, because it is not. It is a 4 mile trek to the summit plateau, with an elevation gain of about 3,100 feet over that four miles (not counting the Haystack). That's what makes it popular. There are plenty of locations around the area that offer easier hikes, enough so that none of them really get overcrowded. This is really the only tough hike available unless you venture into the Cascades. It's often used as a training hike early in the year, as the more experienced hikers prepare for the tougher mountain trails which usually aren't doable until May due to snow.
Next to Mount Si is a small peak, known as Little Si. It's less than half of Mount Si's height, only reaching 1,576 feet at the top, with 1,200 of that gained during the 2.5 mile hike. It gets some hikers, especially in the winter when the top of Mount Si can have significant amounts of snow on it.
About The Hike:
The first mile and a half of the Mount Si hike is through fir forest, still in a stage of late regrowth from a fire in 1910, which burned across the mountain for weeks. At about 1 1/2 miles is Snag Flats, elevation about 1,750 feet. There's a small boardwalk section with benches and information displays talking about the fire. There's also a pointer to a large tree that survived the fire, but has unusual bark due to the event. This is a nice place to rest for a bit, drink some water, eat a snack if need be. It's also a great turnaround point if you're not up to going for the summit.
Haystack Basin, at 3,700 feet, is the practical summit for most hikers. There is plenty of room to sit and relax, along with some incredible views. The view of Mount Rainier is completely unobstructed, and is a great sight on a clear day. You can also look down over the valley, seeing pretty much all of North Bend, and see I-90 heading toward Snoqualmie Pass. If you manage to work your way around or a bit further up the rockpile, there are some great westward views - the Olympic Mountains like the horizon, and you can even pick out Seattle buildings (and the Space Needle if you look closely).
If you're a bit of a climber, you can scramble up the haystack. You'll want to be careful, though, as it's easy to send small rocks down to disturb those down below, and there always seem to be a few hikers unfamiliar enough with climbing to think the scramble looks easy - which it does, but it isn't. It's about 400-500 feet high, and becomes decently steep in places, so it is not recommended for those with little experience in such and those who are easily panicked.
Mount Si & Little Si, http://www.mountsi.com/
A Hike Up Mount Si, http://www.gonorthwest.com/Washington/cascades/mountsita.htm
Washington Trails Association, http://www.wta.org