Hill - Elbow Peak
last hiked to Elbow Peak in 1990. since then I have done several snow
scrambles of Yellow Hill. Gwen mentioned Elbow and I joined in along
with Janet. The east side looked better with only a 20% chance of rain.
It was raining at my house, at our meeting in Bellevue and most of the
way up to Snoqualmie Pass. At Easton, as often happens, some blue sky
began to show itself. Janet and I did Yellow
Hill a year ago in April and it
was mostly on snow. This time there was only a few patches all the way
to Elbow Peak. We Drove up the Teanaway Valley turning off for the West
then Middle Fork Roads. The dirt part of the road was potholed but
fine. One worse spot where the road slumped last year but fine in the
Subaru and most cars would be okay.
We were packed and on our way at 9:35 am. The trailhead elevation is
about 2850'. The trail goes around the tank traps blocking the
road/trail. The first 1.6 miles in on road. There are a few shortcuts
where a steep trail joins switchbacks. We stuck to the road up and
down. We found a big patch of tiger lilies right at the start. The
flower show never let up. It was a very good wildflower show. I sure
was not expecting it. Having only hiked this trail in September and on
snow I had no idea. The trail is one of the few in the Teanaway Valleys
that allows motorcycles. This keeps some people away. It should not. On
my first trip I saw one motorcycle. This time we saw none.
The tiger lilies gave way to Indian paintbrush and salsify and lupine.
Lots and lots of lupine. In places the entire hillside above and below
the road and later the trail was covered in blooming lupine. More than
I have ever seen outside of the high mountain meadows. Far more than I
have seen anywhere else this year. The spot forecast for 4000' was for
a high near 60 degrees. It was much warmer than that. We were feeling
the sun and heat at 10:00 am. Fortunately after the road section much
of the way is in forest. Higher up there was a cooling wind. At the
road end we headed steeply up the trail. This old trail is not gentle.
There are a few switchbacks but for the most part it is straight up the
At the ridge top, about 2.2 miles in, we stopped for a break. Gwen
pointed out a find from an earlier trip, a few Tweedy's lewisia in
bloom. Some very colorful penstemon too. The balsamroot was finishing
down low but higher up it was still blooming. Add in some big patches
of arnica for the yellows. Some phlox in various places too. The route
has several ups and downs as it follows the ridge. Uphills late in the
day coming out are always appreciated. In some deeper forest we had
fading trillium, false Solomon's seal, and vanilla leaf. From desert to
forest flowers in just a few minutes. After 22 years I had little
recollection of the trail. On snow you just go straight up.
There was one spring high on the ridge as a pretty good small creek was
running down the trail for a short distance. That was the only water of
the day. It is a dry hike. As the trail began to contour around the
east and north sides of Yellow Hill it became steeper. On open slopes
we saw more paintbrush and blooming glacier lilies. The snow has not
been gone long. The trail contours close to the top of Yellow Hill
before dropping on the way to Elbow Peak. We hit snow about 60' below
the top and chose to just go cross country to the top. There is a
marker on the summit. the top is nearly flat and it's not much higher
than the the area around it. Much different without 5 feet of snow. The
summit is mostly forested. We did have a view north to Mt. Stuart and
the Teanaway peaks. The top of Stuart was in the clouds. A fine place
for a late lunch.
We soon were following the ridge down towards Elbow Peak. Where we met
the trail it was snow free. The 300' drop is short and steep. The ridge
below has some ups and downs but is the gentlest part of the trip.
Forest, open ridge, some flowers, and some views out along the ridge.
Sasse Ridge and Lake Cle Elum are in view now too. The clouds had
departed from Stuart. It's a ways over to Elbow Peak. My GPS recorded
nearly two miles. Just before the final climb is the open ridge. I
recall crossing it back in 1990. The route across dropped steeply then
contoured well below the ridge top. I recalled it being higher. It is.
Coming back across I followed the more faint track just below the
ridge. It's a steep slope but we did fine. This part is not really a
trail not a difficult scramble. Some folks will not be comfortable. We
had no problems.
Janet was not comfortable with the scree and steep drop. After double
knee replacement she did very well getting up and down the steep trail.
She enjoyed the views while Gwen and I headed across. Some unusual
flowers on the ridge. I don't know what they were. The last climb is
steep but not nearly as much as it looks from a distance. In short
order we were on the ridge top. Elbow is not well marked on maps. There
is a first point then a higher on a little farther. There is another
one on the same contour even farther. We stopped at the open point with
the best views. To Rainier, Stuart and points east we now added all the
peaks of the Cascade crest. From Lemah, Overcoat, the Chiefs, Bears
Breast, Hinman and Daniel. Clouds up to the crest on the west side but
clear looking from the east. Snow on parts of the ridge and lots of
glacier lilies in bloom.
We had a short stay and headed down. Soon we met Janet. It was very
warm for the 300' climb back to just under Yellow Hill. We saw two
folks just above the trail on Yellow. They passed us coming down. They
were the only people we saw all day. This is a very under appreciated
trail, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom. We reached the car
at 6:00 pm. Just about 8 1/2 hours on the trail. My GPS recorded 12.07
miles and while that is more than the books and the few other trip
I think it is pretty accurate. It is most definitely more than the 10
miles mentioned in books. The short cuts on the road could reduce a
little distance but not a mile or two. I recorded 4,083' of gain and
that is just about right.
This was a good workout hike with some great views from Elbow Peak and
wildflowers at the start, middle, and end. They never really let up.
in great company and good weather along with almost no other people and
this was a great day for a hike in the Teanaway.
Gwen's photos are here: NWHikers
Click on thumbnails to get
Meadow Along Road
Grass & Lupine
Bunch Of Arnica
Nearing Ridge Top
Flat Top Tree
Balsamroot On Ridge
Yellow Hill In Sight
Winding Through Flowers
Thick With Lupine
Lupine & Paintbrush
Lit Up Lupine
Violets & Spring Beauty
Yellow Hill Benchmark