Mileage: 7.5+ miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 2600ft/5034ft
Map: Green Trails Kachess Lake No. 208, my GAIA
3/23/2017 This was my second time up Hex (you can find last year’s trip report below the pictures for this one) and it was just as spectacular as the first time! The day promised sunshine so we hit the road and drove to Roslyn, WA for this logging-road-then-ridge-walk up to the summit of Hex Mountain. Unlike last year, we went prepared with snowshoes strapped onto packs knowing this year has seen much more snow and plenty of it is left.
We headed up at 9:45am and began the road walk up to the official trail head for the Hex Mountain Trail.
This is usually a confusing mix of possibilities and many folks get turned around, even those who have been here multiple times. Like us today. Again. Right now, the main road is plowed until about 3000ft where you will then make a right on to unplowed road.
There will be flagging and tracks. It can be confusing because you will see flagging all along here up into the trees. We went a little past this and ended up course correcting “off trail” and connecting with the right road eventually. The turn will look like a road…
The actual trail starts at about 3500ft up from here with a right hand turn at the sign for the mountain, we arrived here about 10:45am and 1.8 miles up from the car. Ignore little turnouts along with way. It was early and the snow was still crusty and the snowshoes we had donned for going cross-country made those clink, clink sounds on the surface of the snow. Most folks could probably wait until here to put on snowshoes if you are early in the day. Later, when snow melts, you may want them at the 3000ft mark when you leave the plowed road.
Here is where we began our real ascent up, along the ridge. Cle Elum Lake becomes more prominent and the mountains rise in the horizon like Red, Lemah, Thorp and Mount Daniel. You can see the summit of Hex off to your right and the ridgeline you must conquer to get there.
You earn the views because there are no switchbacks here, just one foot in front of the other as you weave between the trees on the ridge. Sometimes you are in more dense forest and others there are just a few hardy trees holding ground. This is safe hike but there are cornices on the ridge to watch out for; don’t stray too far to the edge.
At about 3900ft, we came out to a clearing on the ridge that makes a nice little resting point. I loved comparing Cle Elum to last year when it was completely ice free. This year, there were just a few places where the flow of Bell and Newport Creek are thawing the lake with the melt they carry from the snow on the mountain.
We didn’t stop long before pressing on to the summit.
I was glad to have snowshoes with traction, otherwise the icy snow would mean kicking steps because any previous tracks had been melted down to faint impressions and the slope is steep. The ridge continues up to 4900ft where it levels off at a junction for Sasse Mountain. Ah, an adventure for another day.
Turning right, we finished the last bit of gain to the summit at 5021ft, the final push heading up makes it look like you are ascending straight for the heavens. It was 12:30pm and 3.93 miles up; the sun was high in the bright blue sky laced with just a few puffy clouds.
We sat and enjoyed lunch and basked in the sun while taking in the 360 views of the Alpine Lakes and Teanaway areas. A few peaks were playing peek-a-boo but for the most part the mountains were displaying their finest. We did wander down to the lower summit, mostly because we could. Coming back up added a little bit more workout to our day!
The snow on the way back down had begun to melt and our steps sunk in deeper making it a slushy, slippery ride down. We kept our snowshoes on until we gained the plowed road again although the snow was not deep from the TH on. Boots alone would have been a sloshy ordeal.
We had worried the road would be one big mud pit to the car but as long as we choose the right track, it was possible to avoid sinking too bad in the muck. Our arrival back to the car was at 3:15, all without seeing a single other soul. All little further drive from the pass and we got to enjoy the beautiful day in solitude.
3/2016 I have a great hiking buddy and this is one of her favorite hikes. Snowshoe Routes of Washington likes it because there is minimal risk of avalanche. We didn’t take our snowshoes because we knew there wasn’t going to be fresh powder but they could have been used. It’s helpful to know the area, there are lots of side roads to wonder the first mile. Just try to stay on the main road and avoid smaller side roads staying northeast bound. Backtracking is normal even for returners. We had a beautiful view of Kachess Lake from the top and nothing but blue skies.
Directions: From Seattle, take exit 80 and follow signs through Roslyn and Ronald on SR 903 to a junction with FR116 on the right. Pulling in, you will see a gate ahead. You can park along the road here (depending on snow berms) or you can park about 300 before FR116 where it crosses Newport Creek on the shoulder of the road. You will need a Northwest Forest Pass.