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Bare Mountain

Snoqualmie Region

Location

Snoqualmie Region -- North Bend Area
View map below

Length

8.6 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 3300 ft.
Highest Point: 5353 ft.

Rating

3.77 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2020
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Bare Mountain, the site of a former fire lookout, is a superb viewpoint with mountains in every direction and lakes close by. In season, appreciate the great variety of wildflowers, beginning at the trailhead and continuing all the way to the summit. And be alert for birds and wild critters. They are out there.

The first part of your trail is paved with large, loose cobbles as though a river bed had been dredged and the material deposited here. The footing is not the best, and the intention is not obvious. This was once the route of a makeshift road, and around 1905 ore was being hauled out here from mines up at the head of Bear Creek. (Yes, the creek and some small lakes at its head are "Bear," while the mountain is "Bare.")

Initially, your route will cross several small gullies, each a few feet deep. In late spring or summer they may carry trickles of water that are easily stepped over, or they might be dry. Clearly, more significant flows sometimes occur.

In about a half mile you will approach Bear Creek. Your trail heads upstream near the creek bank for a few feet on a section that sometimes is rooty and muddy. That will bring you to the first creek crossing. When the water level is low you can cross easily on the rocks, but early in the season or after a heavy rain you may have to brave a crossing on logs that can be wet. Check recent trip reports for up-to-date information about the crossing. Once you are across, the trail resumes slightly to the left of the logs and it heads directly away from the creek.

Beyond the first crossing of Bear Creek the cobbles paving the trail seem to get smaller, and the footing becomes more comfortable. A second crossing comes up soon, this time on a rustic wooden bridge that is showing its age but is quite serviceable.

The trail continues on, now free of cobbles. Occasionally, it will seem rooty and it does have a few stone steps. Eventually, you will emerge from the forest onto treeless slopes. While much of the ongoing route may be bare of trees, it is not bare of other vegetation. In late spring and early summer the trail may be edged with head-high bracken fern and cow parsnip, and they can be very wet from dew or recent rain. You might find trekking poles useful here, not just for balance but to push the overhanging growth aside so you can see the trail and avoid tripping on an occasional root or stone, or stepping into one of those small holes where water, or critters, have penetrated the tread.

Eventually, the trail passes above a boulder field strewn with the remains of several very old and weathered logs; debris from some long-forgotten avalanche. A few yards farther along, the main trail makes a very sharp switchback to the left, and a faint path continues on straight ahead. It offers a route for hikers intent on exploring the old mine sites at the head of Bear Creek. You, however, will take the switchback; it is the route to the summit.

Take the switchback and continue climbing. There will be more switchbacks--according to a Forest Service count there are 46--interspersed with traverses of varying length. Occasional short sections of the trail pass though shady forest but much of it is on open slopes with low bushes, so it can become very warm on a sunny afternoon. Carry plenty of water!

As you progress upward the views become more expansive. Around the 4,400-foot level the summit dome of Mt. Rainier rises up over hills to the south. At about the 4,800-foot level the trail crests a ridge where a very short side trail leads to a rocky viewpoint that offers a dramatic view down on the larger of the two Paradise Lakes, with Bench Lake up on a low bench just beyond it.

The smaller Paradise Lake lies to the left, slightly lower down and mostly obscured by trees, but a close look will reveal a small part of it. Some maps seem to label the smaller Paradise Lake incorrectly as Bench Lake, but just remember that Bench Lake is the highest of the three, and its up on that small bench. The lakes will be partially visible from the summit too, but the best views are here at the ridge-top vantage point.

Return to the main trail and resume your ascent. There's a bit more uphill--another 500 feet or so--and more switchbacks before you reach the summit block. The last few feet may seem more like a scramble, but they are easily negotiated. The summit, at 5,353 feet, is somewhat flattened, and it was once home to a fire lookout. The lookout cabin, built in 1935, was decommissioned and destroyed in 1973. Only hints of it remain today. For a photo of the lookout in its heyday, check www.firelookout.com/wa/baremtn.html.

The views from the summit in every direction are amazing. Clouds permitting, look for Mount Rainier in the south, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker in the north and the Olympics in the far west. Much nearer, Mount Phelps with its horn-shaped peak rises up to the northwest, while the rounded form of Goat Mountain and the rougher summit of Twin Peaks dominate the near view to the southwest. The southeast skyline displays the incredible line of rugged peaks extending northward from Snoqualmie Pass.

You may see a hawk soaring below you, seeking prey on the open slopes. And sometimes a swallow will swoop past the summit, seeking its own lunch of insects. Some trip reports mention sightings of deer, or even a bear, on the slopes far below.

In season, you will find wildflowers all along your route. Among the many others, look for columbine and tiger lily, plus a lot of rosy spirea. The summit block often sports some colorful Indian paintbrush. The flora are visited by many bees, and by some beautiful butterflies. Later in the season note the red berries of mountain ash. And in late summer be alert for ripe blueberries, although between the hikers and the bears they tend to disappear quickly.

In the fall, the blueberry leaves turn a deep red offering a sharp contrast to the greens of spring and summer. It's worth doing the hike both in the spring and in the fall to experience Bare Mountain in these different hues.

 

Bare Mountain

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.6395, -121.5283 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Snoqualmie Region -- North Bend Area

Bare Mountain (#1037)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region

Dan A Nelson

Mountaineers Books

1st Ed. 2007

2nd Ed. 2014.

Download a map to plan your hike

Buy the Green Trails Mount Si No. 174 map

Buy the Green Trails Skykomish No. 175 map

Getting There

From I-90 about 30 miles east of Seattle, take Exit 31 (North Bend) and head north. You will pass a fast food restaurant and a service station. If you have any thoughts of using a restroom these will be your only options until you get back to town. There are no facilities along North Fork Road, or at the trailhead.

Cross the railroad tracks and turn right on North Bend Way, go two blocks, then turn left onto Ballarat Ave. Stay on that main road as it changes directions (and names) several times. In about four miles, come to a Y where both branches are marked "Dead End." No worries! The sign for the left branch adds "Next 24 Miles," and that's your route.

The pavement soon ends, and you will have a 20-mile drive on rough roads that often have potholes and may be dusty. Take your time and accept the situation. The route isn't very scenic: you'll just be passing a lot of logged-over areas. About 17 miles from the Y, turn left and cross a bridge over Lennox Creek. Then turn right onto Forest Road 57, where the "57" sometimes is obscured by vegetation. (Remember this intersection for your return when you will go left here, cross the bridge, then go right onto North Fork Road.)

On Road 57, it's another 3.2 miles to the Bare Mountain Trailhead. It will be on your left at an elevation of 2,100 feet. Parking is available in a wide area on the right side of the road or along the shoulder. There is room for perhaps six or seven cars, plus two more on the left at the trailhead itself. There are no facilities here.

Display your Northwest Forest Pass in your car. Then fill out one of the Wilderness Use Permit forms available at the trailhead and deposit the bottom half in the box. These forms are used to estimate trail usage and that, in turn, impacts funding for trail maintenance. So it is important.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Bare Mountain

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