View From the Top: Hiking the Kachess Ridge Trail

47.8462° N 121.4072° W

If you’ve ever hiked in the Cascade Mountains then you know you can plan on everything except the weather. You never really know what you’re going to get. Rain, probably, sunshine, maybe, and sometimes a whole big blanket of fresh fallen, early season snow. That’s what meets our group of four as we head out to hike the Kachess Ridge Trail. A first for all of us. 

The Kachess Ridge Trailhead lies just east of the Snoqualmie Pass, off of Kachess Dam Road (NF 4818) near the southern end of Kachess Lake. The hike is 11.9-miles out-and-back, with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet and the highest point at 4,600 feet. The information we have says the hike is rated as challenging and takes an average of just over six hours to complete. We’re fine with all of that. Our goal is simple… get some great shots, enjoy the natural beauty, take in lots of fresh air, and hopefully get a good view of Mt. Rainier.  

The trail starts out steeply and winds its way through a snow-covered forest as it rises above Silver Creek on our right. We have the trail to ourselves, and don’t see another person all day. The quiet is only broken by our own footsteps and here and there we can hear the sound of Silver Creek roaring through the gorge below.  

The hike has areas of steep climb and flatter grade, it runs through old growth forests, open areas, and along and over the water. The final half mile follows a uniform grade all the way to the top. Standing on the ridgetop, we can see Lake Easton and Kachess Lake stretching out in a gorgeous blue below us. And off in the distance, yes, the snow covered peak of Mt. Rainier. We all agree, that view alone is worth every step. We take a long moment to soak it all in. Finally, we find a place to sit, break out our lunches, and take turns pointing out the mountain we would like to hike next. Snow or no snow, any of them will do. 

One final note, as we found out, snow makes it difficult to spot the official trail in some places and cell phone coverage is spotty at best. Make sure to plan ahead and bring a map to reference.