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Tiger Mountain Trail North

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
View map below

Length

15.5 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2400 ft.
Highest Point: 2500 ft.

Rating

2.75 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2020
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 
 

The TMT is not a direct route to anywhere. It's a long meander through the Tigers, passing near the high points but not going to any of them. As the raven flies, Custer's Bridge is less than three miles from the trailhead. By the TMT it's nearly eight. So why hike this route? Along the way you hike through deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests on both the shady north side and drier south side of West Tiger; past areas where the decaying stumps from old logging are evident, through moist areas with small creeks and an abundance of ferns and shrubs, and other 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.

In season, you may find many forest wildflowers. 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, goatsbeard, foamflower and thimble berry. Many others, less common, are out there. Perhaps take a few photos, then consult a wildflower guide when you get home.

As a tribute to volunteers who had major roles in building the trail in the 1970s, certain locales were dubbed with folksy names such as Anschell's Allee, Ruth's Cove, Pete's Pass, Hopping Bridge, etc. A few of these names - only a few - are shown on the Green Trails map. All, initially, were identified by rustic signs posted along the TMT. Also, small markers were installed each mile to indicate the distance from the south end. Sadly, in recent years many of these signs and markers have disappeared, their fate unknown. Look for a few remaining ones on your hike.

From the parking area, follow the signs and hike the wide gravel trail 0.1 mile south. At the signed fork, turn left toward the W. Tiger #3 Trail and the Tiger Mountain Trail. In a short distance, turn left again at a rustic sign, this time onto the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) itself.

The route starts out fairly level, then gains elevation with many switchbacks. In 1.25 miles the trail straightens and begins a long southward stretch along one side of a narrowing canyon, termed Anshell's Allee. Just beyond the Allee, cross two tributaries of High Point Creek on secure bridges.

After the two bridges, come to an intersection with the K3 Trail. It's signed "unmaintained," but it's maintained by volunteers so is as good as any trail in the Tigers. From here, the TMT makes a long loop to the east then loops back west at a higher elevation. The K3 takes a shortcut across that loop. It's steeper, but it's 1.5 miles shorter. Well, you are out to hike the TMT, aren't you? So don't cheat. Of course, if you hike far enough on the TMT, you can keep K3 in mind for your return leg when saving that extra 1.5 miles may seem very welcome. (If you take K3 on your return, the round trip to Custer's Bridge is about 14 miles.)

About a half-mile farther, come to the first crossing of High Point Creek. A few years ago a bridge here was heavily damaged by flood waters and blowdowns. An impressive 200-foot steel span was constructed in 2015 to replace it.

In another 0,1 mile, come to the T-junction with the High Point Trail (it arrives here from I-90, Exit 20, by a different route than the TMT.) At this point, you have come 2.6 miles from your trailhead and, for an easy hike, this is a possible turn-around point.

Or press on an additional half mile, passing a signed junction with the Lingering Trail, to 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. Ruth's is a nice place to pause for a break. It's just over three miles from your trailhead, and is another possibility for a turn around.

A couple of hundred feet past Ruth's Cove, look on the left 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.

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 left and the TMT going right.

In 0.3 miles the route starts to level off. Formerly, the TMT crossed High Point Creek on a bridge here, then traversed a former landslide before coming to a junction with the West Tiger RR Grade and continuing on uphill. 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.

Before reaching the former bridge site, the TMT now turns left (uphill.) Take this newly- constructed section of the TMT and soon cross High Point Creek on a new, very secure bridge. Climb a bit more, then enjoy a nearly­level section of trail that meets up with the old route at the upper end of the K3Trail. Keep the K3 in mind for the return leg of your hike.

Continue on (up) to Tom's Crossing, actually a T-junction. At about 2,500 feet, it's the highest point along the TMT so you have come up about 2,000 feet from the trailhead. In spring, look for red currant blooming here. (From the junction, the West Tiger #2 Trail climbs steeply, gaining another 270 feet, to reach that summit.) Stay with the ongoing TMT as it drops a little, passing though a section of forest with a dense canopy and little growth in the understory. In 0.3 mile from Tom's Crossing, reach Pete's Pass where the TMT crosses the ridge between the West Tiger #2 and #3 summits, each less than a quarter mile away.

Press on five minutes 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 even this window and it may disappear in a year or two. Manning's Reach is another of the high points on the TMT and, like Tom's Crossing, has an elevation about 2,500 feet. If you continue on to Custer's Bridge you will drop about 440 feet - and have to regain it on your return. If this is unappealing you could turn around here.

Or continue on 1.25 miles to a junction with the One View Trail (a route to Poo Poo Point, or to the High School Trail.) Then, in another 0.1 mile, come to Larry's Crossing and the intersection with the Hidden Forest Trail (Left, uphill, goes to the West Tiger #1 summit, in about a mile. Right, downhill, connects with the Fifteen Mile RR Grade and, eventually, the West Side Road.)

In another on 0.1 mile on the TMT come to the fancifully-named Hopping Bridge crossing a small, seasonal stream. Yes, there are a few rabbits in the Tigers, but it's unlikely you will see any here.

Continue on a bit more than a mile, passing Dieter's Spring and, at about 7.25 miles from the trailhead, reach 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 not so 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. Then consider whether you might want to turn around here.

Or you can continue on, about another half mile. Drop down a hundred feet or so and cross the signed Fifteen Mile RR Grade. Drop a bit more and, a couple of minutes later, come to Custer's Bridge. It's 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, located near the midpoint of the TMT, 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. Sit a while, sip and snack, and relax to the soft sounds of the flowing stream.

If you haven't turned around already you really should now. You've hiked half the TMT, some would say the better half. It's almost eight miles back to your trailhead (less if you take K3,) and you have to regain the 440 feet of elevation you dropped getting here from Manning's Reach. Perhaps you have caught "TMT fever," that uncontrollable urge to see what's around the next corner on the TMT? That's OK. It happens. Come back tomorrow, or in a few days. Start at the south end and hike north to Custer's Bridge. Then you will have experienced it all. Better yet, collaborate with a friend, arrange a car shuffle, and do the entire TMT as a through hike starting at the south end. It's a worthy adventure.

 

Tiger Mountain Trail North

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.5296, -121.9957 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

Dan A. Nelson

Mountaineers Books.

Winter Walks & Hikes Puget Sound

Harvey Manning

Mountaineers Books.

Green Trails Tiger Mountain No. 204S

Getting There

From I-90, a few miles east of Issaquah, take Exit 20 (High Point.) Turn right and immediately turn right again onto the frontage road. In 0.6 miles the pavement ends. A gate here is closed daily at 7 PM, so either park off the road and hike the obvious trail 0.3 miles to the main traihead, or drive - watching for potholes - to the large trailhead parking lot (but be sure you leave before 7 PM.) A Discover Pass is required. A privy is available. There is no regular water source.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 

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Tiger Mountain Trail North

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