Thorp Mountain Loop

A car window stuck half way down caused me to miss a hike to Thorp Mountain on Saturday with Gwen. Sunday Kim was free and we chose to head to Thorp. Gwen and I were planning to hike from the north on the No Name Ridge Trail. Gwen did so on Saturday. Kim and I planned a variation of the trip I did ten years earlier. This time we would go to Little Joe Lake and complete the loop but leave out the Red Mountain lookout site. We met in North Seattle at 6:45 am and headed east. One stop in North Bend for gas and on east over Snoqualmie Pass to Roslyn and up the valley. At the head of Cle Elum Lake we turned left on French Cabin Road. Up the hill to the turnoff for the road up Thorp Creek. A mile and a half or so later we parked in one of several turnouts. There were already Three cars there and another arrived soon after us. Towards the end of the road is a well used boot path shortcut to Thorp Lake. We arrived at about 9:00 am and were packed and on our way at 9:16 am. It was a beautiful sunny morning though the day would be cooler than the day before.

The old side road is gated with a small sign for Thorp Creek and Little Joe Lake trails. Almost immediately is the crossing of Thorp Creek. The bridge has been gone at least since before my 2007 trip. We were able to rock hop across with dry feet. On the other side is a road. Right is towards Little Joe Lake and left would be our return route from Thorp Mountain. Only the first and last few hundred feet are repeated. The road walk went by fast. Soon we were at the Little Joe Lake outlet creek. Another rock hop with dry feet. The start of the trail is steep with some loose rock. No switchbacks for several hundred vertical feet of gain. The lower part is in and out of the sun but soon the way is mostly in forest. As we climbed the wildflower show got started. When I did this trip in mid August 2007 there were few flowers left. I wanted to see all the meadows with more color.

There were lots of queen's cup in bloom. Kim pointed out Jacob's Ladder. There were blue bells and Valerian. We saw just a couple Indian paintbrush down low. Lupine was blooming plus a few yellow violets, There were a number of small yellow flowers too. Then came the columbine. Kim and I discussed not recalling seeing so many columbine on any trip. We saw them down low and up high. Almost from start to finish all along the loop. Quite a display. After about 1250' of elevation gain in just under 2 miles we reached Little Joe Lake. It is a pretty though small lake with little accessible shoreline We saw one camp with some garbage in a fire pit. At the far end the trail is lost in grassy ground cover. Just not enough boots to maintain a visible trail. It is a good sized meadow. On the far side we found the trail once again.

The junction with the Red Mountain trail is signed. That trail once went over Red Mountain. I don't think there is much trail left approaching the ridge top from the north. We found the trail to fine on the south side on our 2007 hike up to the old Red Mountain lookout site. This day we were not adding the lookout site. Both the Little Joe Lake and Red Mountain trail are old style. Rather than long, or sometimes any switchbacks, the route goes more or less straight up and down. It shortens the trail and makes for a good workout. From the lake at 4750' we climbed up to a ridge top at 5050'. Then it was down. There are several ups and downs on the Red Mountain Trail. It was getting warm but we had some cool breeze which helped. There were also some clouds overhead. That was not forecast.

The trail goes from forest to meadows over and over. We saw a lot of lupine and columbine along here. any running water was lined with wildflowers in bloom. This is a pretty dry trail though this early there were a few small creeks running. In open spots we found phlox blooming. At time there were good views out to peaks and down to Cle Elum Lake. Much to my surprise we were not alone on this trail. We met one couple at the only good sized creek. A little farther along we met another couple. They were all doing our loop in reverse. The trail mostly travels west but it does turn north heading for a saddle. Last time we followed the trail over the saddle and began to descend. That was before we had GPS units. The trail was not on our map. Now I now to look for a faint trail merging into the route from uphill on the left. We found it with no trouble. Great wildflower show along here.

The route goes around the nose of a ridge and descends to a saddle. The saddle was a logging landing. It was just out of use in 2007. A lot of healing has occurred in a decade. Grass and small trees now cover the slope below the saddle. I had forgotten that there is a great view north to Bears Breast, Hinman, and Mt. Daniel. One small benefit of removal of the trees. After a short break we crossed the saddle and picked up the trail once again. In less than half a mile it reaches a junction with the No Name Ridge Trail. That one goes from near Cooper Pass to Thorp Mountain and down Kachess Ridge to near Easton. Kim decided the loop would be good enough for her and I took off ahead to summit Thorp Mountain before heading down.

I reached the junction at 2:00 pm and sped down the No Name Ridge Trail. I soon met a couple who had backpacked to Thorp Lake from the north end of the trail. That made three couple seen in five hours. Not too bad. There were still a few snow patches but they are small, on flat ground, and soon to be gone. There is one down tree across the trail on a slope with all its branches intact. It required dropping down the slope to get around it. Not fun but not too difficult. I reached the junction with the upper end of the Thorp Creek Trail at 2:33 pm Now I had .80 miles with 675' to gain.

The wind really picked up as I ascended the final trail to the summit of Thorp Mountain. It was refreshingly cooling. I passed a group of five coming down. I passed one other solo hiker coming down. That was it for the day. Twelve hikers seen all day on a loop to a lake and a mountaintop lookout. I arrived on top to find I was alone. Some clouds were behind the Cascade Crest peaks but the views were still excellent. There were lots of wildflowers on the final ascent and at the top. I arrived at the lookout at 3:05 pm and stayed until 3:20 pm. A short stay but I took a lot of photos. Now I sped down to the Thorp Creek Trail junction. Bugs were not a problem while moving but they were bothersome if we sat still for long. Rather than wait Kim headed on down before me.

The top of the trail is steep and a bit lose. It gets much better farther down. It is about 3 miles with 1650' of elevation to lose. Kim took a wrong turn at the junction with Thorp Lake. She saw the lake for the first time. I was surprised to not catch up with her coming down. She took the short cut trail from the lake to the road and walked it back to the car. I reached the bottom first. I went looking for her just before she arrived at the car. It added a little time to our trip but it was no problem.

My second time on the loop was much different than my first. One lookout site instead of two and a much better wildflower display. While we saw more folks than I expected, twelve hardly counts as a crown over a full day of hiking. The views from the lookout were really spectacular. Unlike later in the summer there was a little running water up high and a number of creeks on the Thorp Creek Trail. An excellent hike for lonesome rambling with a lake and lookout included. Hopefully, I will return in less than another ten years.

Trailhead Parking
Thorp Creek Crossing
Trail Signs
Starting Up The Road
Little Joe Lake Valley
Heading Up The Trail
Queen's Cup
Forested Trail
Jacob's Ladder
Yellow Flower
Vanilla Leaf
More Yellow Flowers
Little Joe Lake
Campsite At Lake
Trail? What Trail?
Snow Patch
Lupine Along Trail
Lots Of Lupine
Me In The Meadow
Big Meadow
Nearing Switchback
View Out
Lots Of Columbine
Balsamroot Bloom
Kim & Balsamroot
Indian Paintbrush
Steep Spot
Colorful Penstemon
Kim & Mt. Daniel
Saddle & No Name Ridge
Western Anemone
Almost To Lookout
Cascade Crest Peaks
Chimney Rock & Overcoat
Chikamin Peak
Lemah Mountain
Mt. Hinman
Summit Chief
View Northwest
Mt. Stuart
View From Lookout
Flowers At Summit
Thorp Lake
Lake Kachess
Marsh Marigold
Meadow Below Ridge
Bright Penstemon
Penstemon Close Up
Even More Wildflowers
Thorp Mountain View To The Northwest
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017