Thorp Mountain Via Knox Creek

I needed a shorter trip that would allow me to get home early enough to get in some work. Kim came along as we chose the Knox Creek route up Thorp Mountain. I was on Thorp last August as part of a long 13 miles loop via Red Mountain and was surprised to see that the lookout was being rebuilt. I was curious as to how it looks now. This is also known as a great flower hike and reports said it was almost snow free. Put that all together and it was the perfect choice for this day.

We cruised through Roslyn and Ronald heading to the end of Lake Cle Elum. The French Cabin Creek Road is signed. The two turns are both signed. Five miles up the road we went right two more miles to the trailhead. There was a big slide right a mile from the trailhead at a switchback in the road that obliterated the way. Very recent work has restored the road and vehicle access to the trailhead. We arrived at 8:50 and there were no other cars there.

Flowers start right at the car. Lots of color. Columbine is at the start but nowhere else on the trail. Asters, paintbrush, Queen Anne's lace, lupine, and others are on the lower trail. I did this hike in 1990 and the trailhead is not like I remember it. My oldest hiking guides list the trailhead elevation at 4000' but it is now at 4200'. I'm not sure what is different but something is. The way starts with very gentle switchbacks through a sea of green. The meadow is dense with a narrow trail through it. Some brushing would be helpful but it was not as bad as some reports made it sound.

With all the flowers we made very slow progress. It was going to be a hot day and it was already getting warm at 9:00 am. It's listed as 1 1/4 miles to the junction with the Kachess Ridge Trail though it seemed like more. It is 1000' of gain. The first half is very gentle and the last half is where the trail gets a little steeper. The trail is narrow with a bit of downhill slope on a steep hillside so watch your footing. Terrific flower bunches in the middle section with blue, purple, white, yellow, and red flowers all mixed together.

It was getting very warm when we reached the junction. The next section over to Thorp Mountain is largely in forest. Much cooler and much appreciated. The trail does move to the left side of the ridge into another flower field with nice views out. Mt. Rainier was clear as there were hardly any clouds to be seen. I could pick out Mt. Margaret, Keechelus Ridge, French Cabin Mountains, and even a little of Lake Kachess far below. Soon we reached the Thorp Mountain junction.

There was still a sizable snow patch at the junction though it is off the trail. The Kachess Ridge Trail heads around Thorp Mountain with another spur heading down to Thorp Lake and the Thorp Creek Trailhead. After a break we headed straight up. The trail up gains elevation quickly with many short switchbacks but is not too steep. There were only a few small snow patches left. If possible, the flowers were even better along here. We saw some pink penstemon near the first junction on the Knox Creek Trail and now we saw lots more. A really colorful flower.

The Thorp Creek Trail is much more popular and we began to see groups coming up that way. While we took photos several groups went past us. In short order (1/2 mile) we reached the lookout. The shutters were up and we could still smell fresh paint. It looks really good. The old lookout had no balcony but after the rebuild there is one all the way around.

Thorp Mountain has one heck of a view. For the 5 miles and 1800' gained on the Knox Creek route this is as good an easy viewpoint as you will find. The Cascade crest is not far away. We picked out Alta, Hibox, Three Queens, Chikamin, Lemah, Chimney Rock, Summit Chief, Bears Breast, and Daniel in a row of dark rock and bright white snow. We saw the south side of Chikamin driving in and it was nearly bare. The northeast side still has lots of snow. As always I could see Mt. Stuart to the east. With no other large peaks real close by the 360 degree view is outstanding. There were a number of groups on top and more coming. Could not expect to have this summit to ourselves on a nice sunny weekend day.

The last report talked about bugs but other than a few skeeters and a few flies they were not much of a problem. I never was tempted to break out the bug juice. By the time we were ready to head down it was getting very hot. It turns out that Ellensburg was just over 90 and it felt that warm on the trail. We were not in a big hurry heading down as it was still early. With a half mile to go we could see the car below but with the long switchbacks it still took some time to get there. We passed on group heading up and were surprised to see several other cars in the lot. I have no idea where they went as we did not pass them on the trail.

The proved to be an outstanding short hike. Fantastic flower display and very few bugs plus no snow on the route. We expected lots of folks on the summit but saw only two folks on the rest of the trip. The Knox Creek Trail could use some widening, flattening, and brushing in the first mile but was very easily hikable as is. Thanks to Kim for coming along on a fine day in the mountains.

Every Shade Of Green
Towards The Ridge
Indian Paintbrush
Red & White Flower
Thorp Lake
Kachess Ridge Trail
Flower Slope
Mt. Margaret
Mt. Rainier
Daisies & Lupine
Thorp Mountain Lookout
Cascade Crest Peaks
Hinman & Daniel
Chimney Rock
Mt. Daniel
Mt. Hinman
Summit Chief
Hibox Mountain
Three Queens
Chikamin North
Kim & Lookout
Flowers Near Lookout
Kachess Lake
Rock Garden
More Daisies & Lupine
View From Ridge
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2008