Snoqualmie Tunnel

With a record breaking heat wave coming for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I joked with Gary that we should go hike the Snoqualmie Tunnel. It was only partly a joke. In the past few years we have had forest fires that made hiking most anywhere unhealthy. I have done several trips through the tunnel finding very little smoke at the ends and none in the middle. It is also a steady very cool temperature. With forecast highs as much as 7 degrees above the highest temperature every recorded in Seattle it began to look appealing. There is almost no elevation gain at all but it is very cool inside. Gary was free on Saturday which would be the coolest of the three days. It also would likely be over 100 degrees in North Bend. Plenty hot enough to spend a cool afternoon hiking well below ground level. Normally, we meet early to beat the crowds and the heat on a summer weekend. This time we wanted to be out during the heat of the day and so opted for a later start. On previous smoke avoiding hikes in the tunnel I arrived early and had little company at first. Later more folks did arrived near the end of my hike. I just hoped a late start on a freakishly hot day would not have the lot full before we arrived.

We met at High  Point at 9:20 am and I drove east. It was already 80 degrees when we met. We arrived at Hyak at about 9:50 am. The lot was about 90% full. More than hoped for but not full.  We packed up and were on our way by just after 10:00 am. It is only .30 miles to the tunnel. We saw some hikers and bikers on the short walk to the tunnel. Though it was already very warm we had on long shirts and long pants. I expected it to be cold. As we entered it was a bit cooler but not at all cold. As we walked father in the temperature continued to drop. Within abut five minutes it was cool and comfortable. It was warm enough that I rolled my sleeves up and they stayed most of the time.

Voices carry in the 2.25 mile tunnel.  Lights are also visible at quite a distance. Bikes came up on us pretty fast but hikers took a long time to meet us. We saw the lights just slowly getting nearer. The tunnel is about pitch black with the exception of a little light from the portals. We were not in a huge hurry as we wanted to spend much of the day covering up to 10 miles plus stops at the west end of the tunnel. We found it hard to hike all that slowly. With effectively zero elevation gain and loss and the chill we just naturally hiked at a little over a 3 mph speed. We averaged 3.3 mph for the first traverse. We reached the west end at about 10:43 taking under 42 minutes minutes to cover the 2.25 miles. It was now much warmer than when we started. Nice views up to Granite Mountain and out to McClellan Butte and Snoqualmie Mountain. The waterfall near the tunnel portal was flowing fast. There were quite a few folks there including some larger bike groups. We found a spot in the shade and took a nice long break.

After the break we packed up and headed back to the tunnel. Now felt a very cool breeze blowing out. After the 85 degrees outside the tunnel it felt very good. We headed back into the tunnel to find the steady breeze continued. Part of the reason for the insane heat in Western Washington was easterly flowing winds keeping the cooler ocean winds at bay. The wind was blowing into the tunnel and quickly cooling. We had a tailwind on the way west but now had a headwind compounded by our 3+ mph speed. The result was Gary wore gloves. I loved the chill after a week of unseasonable heat and now levels heading for triple digits. We dropped down to 3.2 mph on the second traverse but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Once back at the east end it was now much warmer. We had a short food and water break and headed back into the tunnel. Gary had minor surgery recently but was fine for another trip out and back. For some reason we saw folks near the ends but had long stretches in the middle where we did not pass anyone. One thing I noticed on my smoke hikes were families with small children. We saw that again this day. For those on bikes who continued down the railroad grade as the temperatures moved through the 80s and higher I say that you are tougher than me. I was happy to stay in the cool tunnel. We slowed a bit on the last traverse back to the east end and finished with a 3.2 mph average for the day. The gps could not get any signal in the tunnel so it just made a straight ling. No problem as the route is a straight line.

We came out of the tunnel for the last time at 2:59 pm. The parking lot was now half empty. After getting going my car registered about 95 degrees near Hyak at 2600'. On the way home I stopped for gas in North Bend It was 103 degrees. I dropped Gary off at High Point and it was 102 degrees. It would be higher on Sunday and even higher on Monday. Oh joy... I was not home until about 4:25 pm. Just past the heat of the day as we had hoped for.

Hiking through a tunnel well underground is not a very scenic trip. Not my first choice for a summer weekend day Something I would only do if there is a lot of forest fire smoke, very heavy rainfall, or very high temperatures. On those occasions it provides a dry, cool, and mostly smoke free place to hike when none seems to be available. On that basis it was a great placer to be on a day that reached over 100 degrees in many places in Western Washington.

Parking Lot
East Tunnel Portal
Getting Cooler
West End Far Away
Gary & Biker
Red Lights
Nearing West End
People At Portal
West End
McClellan Butte
Granite Mountain
Snoqualmie Mountain
Lot Of Bikers
Heading East
Dark & Cool
Flat Walkway
Skunk Cabbage
Bike Approaches
Gary In The Tunnel
Hot West End
Bathroom & Granite Mt.
One More Time
Me & My Shadow
East Portal Ahead
East End Fence
Shaded Grade
Hot At Home
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2021