Dirty Harry’s Peak
When the snow starts falling in the lower part of the Cascades and avalanche danger rises uncomfortably high, there is always Dirty Harry’s for those who want to get out for a hike. Named after Harry Gault, a logger who gained his reputation for working in places others often thought inaccessible but also for his rather relentless logging practices, this peak offers a good workout and decent summit views, including an unobstructed view of Mt. Rainier to the South.
The trail starts at a relatively low elevation, and seldomly you will have to drive through snow to get to the trailhead. Come early. This area is popular with hikers and climbers alike and the relatively small parking lot fills up quickly during weekends.
The trail first traverses a small patch of a forest before spitting you on a gravel road. Cross the bridge in front of you, pause to take some photographs as the views are nice from here, especially in a soft morning light, and then look for a trail on your right side, immediately after the crossing.
From here you will meander through a forest that has recovered rather well since the reign of Harry Gault. The trail is rocky and very slippery if wet but the grade is quite gentle and there are several viewpoints along the way to distract you from the climb. The main lookout, also called Dirty Harry’s Balcony, makes for a good turning point if you are looking for a shorter outing, and can be found about 200 ft from the main trail at a well marked intersection close to mile mark 2.
From this intersection another sign points in the direction of Dirty Harry’s Peak. The grade steepens and though the path is easy to follow even if under snow (you are now following a remnant of an old logging road), you need to watch for some switchbacks and little obstacles – creek crossings and postholing, especially in areas where the snow covers downed trees. Snowshoes are almost always helpful here if you are attempting the peak during winter.
You will bid farewell to the road with a final switchback, a sharp left at a boulder field, and from there on you will be climbing a very steep ridge towards the summit. This is the hardest but also the most beautiful part of the climb. Views start opening around you and if you come after a snowstorm you will likely find yourself in a fairy tale kingdom of frozen trees.
The summit view on a sunny day will make our eyes wander and soak up the beauty of the surrounding peaks. If you happen to be engulfed by clouds, enjoy the solitude of the moment, and come back again.
Distance: 9.2 miles RT
El. Gain: 3326 feet
Best Time to Climb: winter when trail is under snow
Avalanche Danger: Low
From Seattle, take exit 38 towards the Fire Training Academy. After exiting, head right at the stop sign and drive 1.8 miles. The road comes to a junction. Turn left to go underneath the freeway and you will see the parking lot ahead of you with a trailhead sign and a bathroom.
Parking Pass Required: Discover Pass