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Tiger Mountain Trail

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
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Length

15.2 miles, one-way

Elevation

Gain: 2360 ft.
Highest Point: 2500 ft.

Rating

3.80 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2021
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
Temporary closure: Effective on Tuesday July 6 2021 portions of this trail and others that access privately owned forest lands surrounding the summits of West Tiger Mountain will be temporarily closed until further notice while road work and timber harvesting occur. For your safety please respect the closure area.
 
 

The TMT is not a direct route to anywhere. It's a long meander through the Tigers, passing near many high points but not going to any of them. As the raven flies, the distance from the southern end of the TMT to the northern end is about 7.5 miles. On the trail, it's over 15 miles of forest wandering.

Along the way, hike through deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests, past areas with decaying stumps from century-old logging and at the southern end, through a few clear-cut areas that have been recently logged. Encounter moist areas with small creeks and an abundance of ferns and shrubs, drier areas with quite different vegetation, and areas where the forest canopy is so dense that little grows in the understory. Look for and appreciate these differences as you do the hike.

See a variety of forest wildflowers in season. In early spring look for trillium, yellow violet, bleeding heart and coltsfoot; a bit later miner's lettuce, vanilla leaf, salmon berry and red currant; in late June or early July, tiger lily, goatsbeard, foamflower, mimulus, and thimble berry. Many other less common wildflowers are out there. If in doubt, take a photo and consult a wildflower guide at home.

On your hike, you may notice rustic signs with quaint names such as Joe's Hollow, Manning's Reach, Ruth's Cove, and others like these. They were intended as a tribute to the volunteers who built the TMT in the 1970s. Some of the names are shown on the Green Trails map. Small markers were installed each mile to indicate the distance from the southern end, while here and there other markers were installed displaying just the letters "TMT." Sadly, in recent years many signs and original markers have disappeared, their fate unknown. Be alert for the remaining ones as you hike.

From the trailhead, follow the TMT along the grade of the former Woods and Iverson railroad, built in the early days of logging to haul timber from the Tigers to a mill in Hobart. It's a quieter walk today, although you may hear some traffic sounds from nearby Highway 18. In early spring, some of the first trilliums to bloom in the Tigers will be found along this part of the trail.

The first 4.5 miles of the TMT are shared with trail riders (equestrians), and at 1.1 miles, a sign directs them to turn right onto the "Horse Bypass" while your trail continues straight ahead. In another 0.2 miles, your way narrows and traverses the steep hillside of Carkin's Cliff. This precarious trail is the reason horses take a different route. Beyond the traverse, arrive at the sign identifying Hobart Gap, where the foot and horse trails rejoin.

Continue east on the ongoing trail and in 0.8 miles, reach a powerline. Head northeast under the powerline (the route is shared by the TMT and the South Tiger Powerline Trail.) In about 200 yards, turn left at the sign where the TMT leaves the powerline.

Stay with the TMT as it traverses 1.2 miles around the east side of South Tiger Mountain. Along the way, listen for the sounds of Holder Creek below. The trail widens and is joined on the left by the South Tiger Traverse -- it may be shown on your map as a trail, but this end of the Traverse served briefly as a logging road a few years ago so it looks like an old forest road. Continue north on the TMT and in an additional 0.1 mile, cross the West Side Road (Road 1000), one of several non-public service roads in the Tigers.

Beyond the road, traverse the lower edge of a clear-cut area, then make a very sharp left turn at Zeig's Zag. About 0.2 mile beyond the Zag, the TMT is crossed by a logging road that leads up clear-cut Karl's Peak, a minor viewpoint. From the TMT itself, you can see East Tiger Mountain--at 3,004 feet the highest point in the Tigers--and, in the distance to your right, part of the summit dome of Mount Rainier may be visible, clouds permitting.

Continue, following an old railroad grade through forested areas around the west and north sides of Karl's Peak, then skirt more clear-cut area before entering mature forest again. At 1.6 miles from Zeig's Zag, come to Millan's Crossing. To the right, the Middle Tiger Trail climbs over 400 feet to the 2,607 foot summit of Middle Tiger (no view.) To the left, the Middle Tiger Trail drops steeply 900 feet to reach the Hobart-Middle Tiger RR Grade, a worthy hike in its own right. For today, continue on along the TMT.

Traverse around the forested south, west and north sides of Middle Tiger Mountain, passing several named locations. Keep an eye out for the signs! At 1.2 miles from Millan's Crossing, note a sign for "Hobart Grade" with an arrow seeming to point straight ahead. Don't go there! That's an unofficial route that drops down to the Hobart-Middle Tiger RR Grade. Stay on the TMT, which makes an easily-overlooked right turn here, just when your eye might be distracted by the Hobart Grade sign.

Arrive soon at Paul's Cove, a moist area that, in early summer, displays a good flowering of pink mimulus. A half mile beyond Paul's Cove, reach the approximate mid-point of your hike at Custer's Bridge.

Custer's Bridge is as remote a spot as you are likely to find anywhere in the Tigers, in terms of distance to a trailhead. So you might have it all to yourself. The bridge is a low, rustic structure crossing the head of Fifteen Mile Creek. In spring, look along the banks for skunk cabbage. In summer, when the vegetation is so thick you may have difficulty seeing down to the water, look for ripe salmon berries and a few wildflowers. Any time, spring through fall, the bridge is a pleasant stopping point, so why not pause here, enjoy a sip and a snack, and relax for a few minutes to the soft sounds of the flowing stream?

When you are ready to continue, climb a bit on the TMT and cross the Fifteen Mile RR Grade. Climb a bit more and, a half-mile from Custer's Bridge, come to Lone Rock, a glacial erratic boulder perched quietly amid the trees next to the TMT. If your previous Tiger hikes have included the Talus Rocks Trail then you have seen boulders of comparable size. But those on the moist north side of West Tiger are heavily covered in moss. Lone Rock, here on the drier south side, is less adorned, and the characteristics of the stone can be appreciated more readily. Take a close-up look, run your hand over it, and perhaps scramble part way around to compare the different sides.

Continue on another mile, passing Wally's Glen, and cross the small, fancifully-named Hopping Bridge. It crosses a small, seasonal stream that may be dry when you do your hike. And, though there are a few rabbits in the Tigers but it's unlikely you will see any here.

In another 0.2 mile pass Larry's Crossing and an intersection with the Hidden Forest Trail. Going right, uphill, would lead you about a mile to the West Tiger #1 summit at 2,948 feet. Going left, downhill, would take you to the Fifteen Mile RR Grade and, eventually, the West Side Road.

Stay on the TMT and, in another 0.1 mile, come to a junction with the One View Trail. This is a route to Poo Poo Point or to the High School Trail.

On the next 1.4 miles of the TMT, cross the head of Many Creeks Valley. The numerous creeks here are small, and most are seasonal. The vegetation often is particularly lush along this section of the TMT. Farther along, come to Manning's Reach where a very small bench offers room for one or two hikers to sit. There is a minimal view through the trees down to the lowlands, although tree growth is shrinking that window so it may disappear in a year or two. Manning's Reach is one of the high points on the TMT at an elevation of about 2,500 feet.

Drop slightly, and in 0.1 mile reach Pete's Pass where the TMT crosses the ridge between West Tiger Mountain's #2 and #3 summits, each of them less than a quarter mile away. Continue on the TMT, traversing an area with very little growth in the understory. Press on to Tom's Crossing, actually a T-junction. At just over 2,500 feet, it's the highest point on the TMT. In spring, look for red currant blooming here. From Tom's Crossing, the West Tiger #2 Trail heads steeply uphill providing another way to reach that summit.

Continue down the TMT on many switchbacks and, in about 0.3 mile, note the junction with the K3 Trail. From here, the TMT takes a long loop to the east, then swings back west at a lower elevation. The K3 Trail is a shortcut across that loop, cutting off about 1.5 miles. Tempted? Wait! You are out to do a through-hike on the TMT! So save the K3 information for a future hike. You might wonder about the K3 sign that says "Unmaintained Trail." That just means it relies on volunteers for maintenance; it's as good as any trail in the Tigers.

Until 2014, the TMT switchbacked steeply downhill from its junction with the K3, passing a junction with the West Tiger RR Grade, then traversing a former gritty landslide and crossing a bridge over High Point Creek. If you have hiked this part of the TMT before you probably remember this section and your map may still show it as the route.

In early 2014, the bridge was removed and in the summer of 2014 an entire section of the TMT was rerouted to avoid the former landslide and to bridge High Point Creek at a more secure location upstream.

From the K3 junction, take the new section of the TMT. If the arrows on the metal trail sign seem somewhat confusing, check the wooden sign on the left side of the trail. It shows clearly which is the TMT. Head generally south, initially with a gently downhill grade that steepens later. Then cross High Point Creek on a new, very secure bridge. A bit further along, meet up with the old route, make a right turn there, and you are back on the familiar part of the TMT.

Continue on to Fred's Corner, a trail junction in an area of tall maples. While you are there, look up in the trees. It's not unusual to see a few wild pigeons, very different birds from their urban, street-smart cousins. The trail forks here, with the West Tiger RR Grade heading uphill to the right and the TMT continuing on downhill.

Descend the TMT from Fred's Corner and, when the trail levels out in about 0.4 miles, look on the right for a very small fir that often is decorated with a few holiday bangles, even in summer. It's one of two (at least) such trees in the Tigers (another is near the Bootleg Trail above the Paw Print Connector.) It's not known who keeps up the decorations, or who sometimes removes them.

About 200 feet past the tree, reach Ruth's Cove. It's a pleasant spot where a new small bridge crosses a tributary of High Point Creek. In spring, skunk cabbage blooms here. This is a good place to pause for a quick break.

Beyond Ruth's Cove, descend some more and pass signed junctions with the Lingering Trail and the High Point Trail. Just beyond the High Point Trail, reach the lower crossing of High Point Creek. A few years ago a bridge here was heavily damaged by flood waters and blowdowns. It now sits tilted, off its moorings, and sections of its railings are missing. Chains at either end support "Bridge Closed" signs. Other postings have hinted replacement was due soon, but it as of summer 2014, it hasn't happened. When the water level is low there is no problem crossing the creek just upstream on boulders.

A half-mile west of High Point Creek, note the junction with the lower end of the K3 Trail. From here, you have about two more miles to go to finish your TMT hike. Beyond the K3 junction, cross two tributaries of High Point Creek on sturdy bridges, then come to a long, relatively straight section of the TMT termed "Anschell's Allee." Once you are past the Allee, descend about 900 feet, with many switchbacks. Then cross the "Cable Route," that infamous and unofficial trail up West Tiger #3 fancied by exercise enthusiasts.

Beyond the Cable Route, the TMT becomes less steep and has fewer switchbacks. Soon, it levels out completely and merges, first with the West Tiger #3 Trail, then with the wide, graveled trail that leads north a quarter mile to the developed High Point Trailhead - a real contrast to the completely undeveloped trailhead at the TMT's south end.

At the High Point trailhead, pat yourself on the back; you have completed the TMT! Congratulations on completing this classic Tiger Mountain hike. If you found some surprises along the way, or had unusual wildlife or wildflower sightings, or if you found conditions much changed from what is described here, please consider writing a trip report. We'd enjoy hearing the highlights of your experience hiking the TMT.

 

Tiger Mountain Trail

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.4425, -121.9776 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region (Nelson -- Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green TrailsTiger Mountain No. 204S map

Getting There

From I-90 in Issaquah, take Exit 17 (Front Street) and head south on Front Street through the town. At the south end of town, Front Street changes names to Issaquah-Hobart Road. At 8.5 miles from I-90, just before the Highway 18 overpass, turn left onto Tiger Mountain Road SE. Proceed 0.2 miles and look for places to park along the left shoulder of the road. There is no official trailhead parking so this is your only option.
(You may find it easier to continue on 0.15 miles to SE 175th Place, make a U-turn, and come back to park on the shoulder.)

The shoulder is highway right-of-way, and you do not have to display a Discover Pass to park there. There are no facilities. The TMT begins a few feet south of the sign "School Bus Stop Ahead." The northern terminus of your hike will be at the High Point Trailhead, reached from I-90, Exit 20. A Discover Pass is required there. Consider sharing the hike with a friend, and arrange a car shuttle or key swap.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
Temporary closure: Effective on Tuesday July 6 2021 portions of this trail and others that access privately owned forest lands surrounding the summits of West Tiger Mountain will be temporarily closed until further notice while road work and timber harvesting occur. For your safety please respect the closure area.
 

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Tiger Mountain Trail

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