Red Hill Trail
With a forecast of rain and cold
in the mountains I decided to head way east to try to get in a nice day
of hiking. The Red Hill Spur trail leaves from the Devil's Gulch - Mission
Ridge trailhead just north of Cashmere and east of Leavenworth. I have
done both Devil's Gulch and Mission Ridge but not the Red Hill Spur. There
is another way to get to Red Hill from a near by trailhead. I chose this
one so I could have the option of a hike part way up Devil's Gulch as well.
It is 138 miles from north Seattle to the trail head. It took me just under
3 hours with minimal traffic on Highway 2. With the long drive it was already
10:20 when I got started. Two people were just finishing a hike when I started.
They were 2/3 of the people I saw this day. It was mostly overcast but shorts
and short sleeves warm. Only a few minutes up the trail I came to an intersection
with the Red Devil trail. I don't remember this from previous trips so
it may be a fairly new trail. Maybe not that new as it had been 11 years
since I last hiked here. Just after that the trail to Mission Ridge crosses
a bridge and starts to climb. I stayed on the Devils Gulch trail. Wildflowers
started along the road out of Cashmere and continued at the start of the
trail. I saw half a dozen familiar flowers in the first 1/2 mile whose names
I can't remember. I did see quite a lot of Balsamroot. They were at or just
past their peak. At about 3/4 mile there was an unsigned trail heading off
to the right. I thought that it might be the Red Hill trail but I was sure
it used to be signed. I decided to continue up Devil's Gulch a little further
to see if there was another side trail. The Gulch trail was in good condition.
After another 3/4 mile I was sure I had passed the Red Hill trail and headed
back. The detour up Devil's Gulch was a nice side trip in it's own right.
Back at the unsigned trail I turned and followed
it away from the creek. This trail is popular with motorcycles and mountain
bikes as well as horses and hikers. It is narrow and in fact much of it traverses
steep hillsides where moving off trail for a motorcycle or horse would
be a chore. Fortunately I did not have that problem this day. From the
dry balsamroot covered slopes near the creek the trail quickly enters deep
forest with bright green underbrush. This part is very lush for being so
far east. As I gained elevation new varieties of wildflowers appeared. I
spooked a deer just off the trail and it ran away before I could take a
photograph. One nice feature of hiking alone is the amount of wild life
I see. With no talking I often get close to animals before they hear me.
A few minutes later I came upon another 3 deer. These deer were kind enough
to pose for pictures before running away. This trail was built for motorcycles
and as such it is very gently graded. Only a few stretches are even near
10% grade. With such an easy grade it is simple to keep up a good pace. After
a few switchbacks the trail comes out into the open. Devil's Gulch is below.
Mission Ridge is on the far side of the gulch. Mission Ridge ski area is
far in the distance. Still plenty of snow on the highest peaks but none
on the trail. My high point was 3400' and I saw no snow on or near the trail
all day. I did see glacier lilies in bloom near the high point so the snow
must have just recently melted out.
The trail switchbacks to the right and attains
a ridge top. The hill side was in the open but once on the ridge I went
back into forest. The lower forest was mostly firs but up on the ridge
most of the trees were pine. Even in the trees I noticed a marked increase
in the wind. It was a cold wind and I soon rolled my sleeves back down.
The 100 hikes book describes the other trail up Red Hill and mentions this
trail. The other trail is 4 1/2 miles to the top of Red Hill. The book does
not mention the mileage via this trail. In the book the hand drawn map seems
to show both trails being about the same distance. I searched but could not
find my Liberty Quad map the night before. With this in mind I expected the
two trails to meet within about 2 1/2 miles or less. At about 4 miles in
(plus my 1 1/2 mile detour) I still had not reached the trail intersection.
I did reach a high point with views out to the Stuart Range. It was such
an unusual angle that at first I didn't recognize Mt. Stuart. Quite a nice
view. I stopped to have a little lunch as it was already 12:30. After eating
I headed on and down. The trail lost about 180 feet to a saddle then started
to climb again. Shortly after that I reached the intersection with the other
Red Hill trail. If the book was correct it would still be another 3 miles
to Red Hill. I decided to keep going but I didn't plan on going all the way
to Red Hill. I climbed to one more high point at 3600' just 200' lower than
Red Hill. The trail descended again and the skies were definitely getting
darker. Add in a very cold wind and I decided it was time to head for home.
By now I had gloves on. Several other wildflowers appeared near the high
point. Glacier Lilies were right at their peak. I followed the trail back
to a meadow just before leaving the ridge top and stopped to finish my lunch.
Partial views form here were back towards Cashmere.
Just before leaving the ridge a motorcycle went
by. He was the only person I saw on the trail all day. After dropping off
the ridge I moved out of the wind. At lower elevations it actually began
to feel warm again. The rest of the way back was easy with numerous stops
to take photos of the flowers. By 3:15 I was back at my car. Most of my hikes
are to a destination. It is usually a lake or a mountain top. This trip
was different. I never reached Red Hill even though I traveled about 12
miles. On this hike the trail was the reason to do the hike. It started warm
along a creek. It had desert like sections. It had dark and green forest.
It had a long ridge walk with some nice views. The trail itself was the highlight
of this trip. The trail and the wildflowers. This would be totally different
when the wildflowers are through and the motorcycles are running fast and
furious. But for a quiet Spring day this was a great trip.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Photo Page 2