We like to hike the Sasse Mountain Ridge trail this time of year for several reasons – wildflowers, views and better chances for a sunny day. Savvy hikers know that when rain is falling it’s almost always better hiking on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass. They know from experience that at the very worst, it won’t be raining as hard as on the west side.

Another plus – this trail is not as well known as others in the Salmon la Sac region and we’ve never encountered another hiker on the trail, sassy or otherwise. This hike was no exception; we had the trail to ourselves.

View from Sasse Mountain ©Karen Sykes

Trails near Easton (between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum) are becoming more popular these days, not only for views but lavish wildflower displays. Those trails at Easton used to be lonesome; today on a sunny weekend you’ll need an early start to guarantee parking at the trailhead.

Perhaps Sasse Mountain will enjoy a surge of popularity as well. Yes, it’s a longer drive to Salmon la Sac but trails near Salmon la Sac still remain some of the most lonesome trails we’ve hiked, even recently.

View of Mt Stuart (with telephoto lens) from Sasse Mountain ©Karen Sykes

There are reasons some hikers might not agree with me – from the south trailhead the first 1.5 mile of the 9-mile trail is open for motorbikes (June 15-October 15). The trail is also steep in places and in mid-summer it can be hot as blazes.

The trail starts in a combination of ponderosa pine forest and meadows with views of Lake Cle Elum a few steps from the trailhead. In addition to views of the lake, there are also views of Mount Rainier, Red Mountain, Baldy, Domerie Peak and Thomas Mountain.

The ridge up to Hex Mountain ©Karen Sykes

As for those flowers – we saw balsamroot, arnica, lupine, Indian paintbrush, ballhead waterleaf, spring beauties, glacier lilies and trillium.

The trail crosses forest service roads a few times the first 1.5 miles but it is well-signed, the trail designated by metal posts. After crossing logging roads the trail re-enters the forest with moderate ups and downs to an obvious split (about 2.6 miles from the trailhead). Here, take the upper trail (left) and continue a short ways (about .2 miles from the split) through forest to an open ridge where two high points come into view. You will see a faint trail heading south (left) that is closed off by a wooden fence (to prevent motorized vehicles from continuing), and a weathered sign for the trail.

View of Mt Rainier from Sasse Mtn ©Karen Sykes

It’s a short, steep climb to the first high point, an ideal lunch spot or turnaround. It’s also a smorgasbord for the eyes as more peaks come into view; Mount Stuart, Teanaway peaks and the Enchantment Peaks.

Small wildflowers cling to the rocky spine of the ridge between the high point and Hex Mountain, including stone crop and Douglasia. The summit of Hex is another 50 feet or so to the north – you’ll see the trail heading in that direction. The trail is narrow and may feel exposed to inexperienced hikers. With snow, you’d want an ice axe and the know-how to use it.

Near Hex Mountain ©Karen Sykes

Sasse Mountain is about four miles further north and is a forested summit with no views. There are two other approaches to the Sasse Mountain trail – the Howson Creek Trail (a very strenuous hike) and Little Salmon la Sac creek via a rough road with reports of route-finding problems on that stretch of the trail. Study the Green Trails map (No. 208, Kachess Lake) for details.

Heading toward the peak ©Karen Sykes

From Seattle take I-90 east; get off at Exit No. 80, head north through Roslyn and Ronald on Highway 903 and just past the Last Resort turn right onto Road No 4305 (signed Sasse Mountain Trail). Turn left at an unsigned junction, then left again on Road No. 118, also left, signed “trail”. A NW Forest Pass is required. The trail is open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes. Open to motorized bikes June 15-October 15.

The hike is 5.7 miles round-trip to Hex Mountain with 2,000 feet gain. For additional information call the Cle Elum Ranger District at 509-852-1100.

Douglasia (one of the many wildflowers) on Hex Mountain ©Karen Sykes


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