Noble Knob

Suzanne, Gary, and I hiked up the Deep Creek Trail to Noble Knob in early March of the non winter of 2005. This day Joe would be driving back to the Tri Cities and needing a hike in that direction we chose a return trip to Noble Knob. The fact that the high was forecast to be near 90 on the west side ruled out any 100 degree trip east of the mountains. Kate, a friend of Suzanne's, rounded out our group. In addition, the road to Corral Pass was to be open the following weekend so I though this would be a last opportunity for solitude on the ridge top.

We were out of town by 7:30 and reached the trailhead by just before 9:00 am. There is a sign for FS Road 7070 but no sign for a trail. There is room for about 3 cars at most. It was already warm by 9:00. The trail is in deep forest most of the way to the intersection with the trail from Corral Pass at 4 miles. It starts along Deep Creek but quickly leaves the creek. There were no other sources of water for the rest of the day.

The trail is a little unique for west of the crest as there is almost no underbrush. Steeper sections are followed by short flat ones. We took an early clothing break and a water break but otherwise kept moving. After 2700' of climbing we broke out to a great viewpoint. For the first time Mt. Rainier is visible. This is one of the best views of the mountain. Close but not so close as to be overwhelming. There were several downed trees. Most were easy to step across although several large trees down together required climbing over.

It was plenty hot as we had water and food while admiring the views. Back on the trail we headed into forest again. There is still some snow here though with the hot weather it won't last long. We had no trouble finding the route. There were no footprints to be seen. We broke out into the meadows and found lots of glacier lilies and just a little snow. The snow conditions proved to be very similar to March 2005 but with even less.

As we approached the intersection we saw one, then two, then three hikers go by. They were able to drive to within half a mile of the Corral Pass trailhead. They reached the same point with a couple less miles and 2300 less feet gained. We had solitude all the way up but not on the ridge. Joe and Kate had not done much hiking this year and had just gained 3000' at a steady pace. We debated whether to go for Mutton Mountain or Noble Knob. With the lack of snow up high we chose the longer route over to Noble Knob.

This is the third time I have hiked this section of trail and the first time it was not all or mostly on snow. With bare dirt it was much easier. The real flower bonanza has not begun but we did have a nice variety of early flowers. From the 5800' intersection the trail is mostly flat. It was nice after the morning climb. It is 1 1/2 miles from the intersection to the summit of Noble Knob. We reached the ridge top where the route splits. To the left is the real trail and it became snowy. To the right is the alternate which was almost snow free.

The alternate does have a short scramble section. It is not very hard but it is not easy trail either. Soon the two routes merge after descending to a broad saddle. There was still a little snow here but it will be gone in a week or so. There is another intersection here. We went left and began the climb to the top. Lots of phlox blooming all over the bare hillside. We passed two of the three hikers ahead of us and followed the third one up the last part. The trail cuts under the summit on the north side and we did cross snow here.

The view from the summit is outstanding. Rainier dominates to the south. To the north we could see Mt. Stuart and Glacier Peak and even pick out Kaleetan and Chair Peak near Snoqualmie Pass. Four lakes were visible beneath us, all of them thawed out. On the negative side, most of the slopes north of us were partly or totally clear cut. It was right on 12:00 noon when we reached the top.

It was plenty hot now but we had a steady cool breeze making it almost ideal. This was much better than a steamy day in the city. We lounged around for about 45 minutes before packing up. Suzanne and I tried to photograph some of the flowers but with the wind it was tough. More blur than clear photos. We dropped down and climbed back up to the ridge top again. We met another group who drove up to  near Corral Pass.

In short order we were back at the intersection with one more decision to make. Suzanne was up for adding Mutton Mountain. Joe decided to head down and Suzanne, Kate, and I followed the trail towards Corral Pass. It is about .65 miles from the intersection to the top of Mutton Mountain, The route dropped down then came near a saddle on the ridge before beginning to contour around Mutton Mountain. From a distance it looked like an easy walk up the ridge from the saddle.

This was Kate's first hike of the year and having already gained 4200' she opted to enjoy the view from the saddle. Suzanne, Sadie, and I headed up the last 200'. As I expected we ran into a way trail which led all the way up. Sadie dropped to the left of the ridge where possible to cool her paws in some snow. As we climbed we saw the first magenta paintbrush in bloom. There were several other flowers we had not seen anywhere else this day. The top was mostly grassy with a few trees. Although only 100' higher than Noble Knob the view seemed to be better.

We saw Mt. Adams for the first time. Down below we saw some mountain bikers pedaling up the trail. The summit had a nice patch of anemone and buttercup. We dropped down the ridge and met up with Kate once again. One more uphill climb and we were soon back at the intersection. The mountain bikers were resting there. Now we just had 4 miles and 3000' feet to lose. Thankfully the forest is dense and dark making it as cool as we could hope for on an unusually hot summer day.

Just as we reached the viewpoint the bikers caught up and passed us. They managed to ride down a trail that is very steep in spots. I would have killed myself if I tried it. The rest of the way was just a long slog. I had just enough water though another quart would have been good. Finally down at the creek Sadie dove into Deep Creek to cool off. On an 85 degree day a wet dog is a happy dog.

This proved to be a very nice hike. 12 miles with 4400' gained was a good work out. The smooth trail was easy on the knees coming down. We reached two summits, one of which I had not been up before. The flowers were not near peaking but were still very nice. The usual afternoon haze never came in. Rainier remained crystal clear all day. Deep Creek is a nice way to get to a very popular ridge top without seeing any other hikers. I'm sure I'll be back again in a few years.

Deep Creek
Rainier From Viewpoint
White River Valley
Corral Pass Road
Noble Knob
Mt. Rainier
Group Summit Shot
Mutton Mountain
Heading Down
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2006