By Sara Graham
Trying to find a hike these days in the winter where not too many people are going, takes some extra time and creativity. I didn’t want to drive too far but wanted to hike a ‘mountain’ so I decided to explore Tiger Mountain in Issaquah. It is the closest mountain, only a 30-minute drive from Woodinville. There are over 70 miles of trails with three summits waiting to explore.
I have hiked Poo Poo Point many times and done West Tiger Summit 3 and the Chirico trail also. Everyone should know about these popular tourist trails on Tiger Mountain. But this time I wanted to find something new.
I took out my Tiger Mountain Green Trails Map—I highly recommend you buy one (greentrailsmaps.com) if you don’t have one. I felt like a pirate looking for treasure as I laid my map on the kitchen table to carefully examine the trails.
I located Tiger Summit 1, 2 and 3 and then noticed in miniscule letters “Hiker’s Hut” next to Tiger Summit 1. AHA “X” marks the spot–something new waiting to be explored. I had never hiked to summit 1 or 2 and I had never heard of the “Hiker’s Hut.” I planned my adventure and set out to achieve all three summits and find the elusive hiker’s hut.
I chose a sunny day and lucked out finding a parking spot in the Tiger Mountain lot, which is located off I-90 at Exit 19 for the Highpoint trailhead. It can get crowded on the weekend so plan accordingly. You will need a Discover Pass.
I started down the well-trod Tiger Mountain West Summit 3 trail that everybody follows. I carefully checked my map and immediately detoured left onto the TMT trail, a path I have never been on. In a half-mile, I chose to go right up the steep cable line trail to the Tiger Summit 3. I only saw two people along the way. Once on top, I checked out the view then traversed over the top to Summit 2. There is only one trail leading you there so you cannot get lost. I took a quick break to enjoy the company of the robber jays (birds) who attempted to steal Chex mix out of the palm of my hand.
I was now in new territory and was glad to have my map to help me navigate my way. I followed an old logging road up to Summit 1. It came to a “Y” and I veered left up a very steep but short gravel section. I was pleasantly surprised as I rounded the bend, Mount Rainier appeared out of nowhere—it was in full view—Beautiful! I got excited as I neared the top. The road leveled out, I looked up and there tucked in the trees was the “Hiker’s Hut.” It looked like a space capsule. Mission accomplished!
Inside the hut was an array of emergency hiking gear. A safe haven in any Northwest storm. A single stone bench near the hut faces Mount Rainier, a perfect place to soak in the spectacular views.
I returned to the base parking lot via the TMT and K3 trails for a total of 6.5 miles and almost 3,000 feet of elevation. There are so many ways to hike and explore Tiger Mountain no matter the season. I definitely encourage you to check out the map and create your own adventure. I guarantee it will be Grrrrreat! For more adventure ideas visit Trailcrossings.com.