A Stoned Hiker’s Handbook to Mount Ellinor
If you’re anything like the team here at Walden then you’ve been waiting patiently for the weather to flip its script so you can dust off your hiking boots and lean into all of the beauty here in the PNW! Last week we featured Mt. Storm King. Each week in April and May we’ll be rounding up one of our favorite hiking spots out of Washington’s six land regions. From Forks in the Olympic Region and Enumclaw in the South Puget Sound Region to Okanogan County and Clark County, we’ve got something for everyone. Each week we’ll be sharing our own personal insight, tips and tricks and other knowledgeable nuggets with our Walden Cannabis community.
- Mount Ellinor Trail
- Mason County
- Olympic Region
- Elevation – 5951 ft.
- Elevation Gain – ~3402 ft.
- Route Type: Out & Back
- Hiking Distance from Lower Trailhead – 6.2 miles
- Hiking Distance from Upper Trailhead – 3.2 miles
- Northwest Forest Pass (Upper Trailhead only)
- Dogs – Yes (on leash)
Reaching either trailhead is a short drive from the beautiful town of Hoodsport that buttresses up to the western shores of Hood Canal off of Highway 101. If the weather is in your favor the drive to the seaside town is absolutely stunning. Views of the water, wildlife and the Olympic Range rival the views you’re about to experience on this butt-burning hike.
From Hoodsport you’ll turn onto Hoodsport Road (SR 119) and head due east until you reach Forest Service Road 24. In total this is about 9.3 miles. The road will come to a tee and you’ll want to turn right onto Forest Road 2419. If you’re looking for the lower trailhead you’ll reach your destination in 4.9 miles. If you’re after the upper trailhead you’ll go another 1.7 miles from the lower trailhead and take a left on Forest Road 2419-014.
There aren’t any amenities at the lower trailhead so we advise you stop in Hoodsport to use the restroom and purchase water if need be. At the upper trailhead you’ll have access to a vault toilet and picnic tables in addition to striking views!
We should also note that a Northwest Forest Pass isn’t required at the lower trailhead but parking can be a bit hard to come by and you’ll notice if you don’t arrive early much of the parking available on the side of the road will be taken already. The roads to the upper trailhead become quite narrow so keep an eye out for oncoming travelers and if you need to pull over there are a few logging truck pull outs along the way.
If you begin your ascent at the lower trailhead, which we highly recommend, you’ll slowly climb through second growth and old growth Douglas fir forest and walk past lush forest floors that are home to more than 1,000 plant species some of which are very rare. You’ll continue to climb meeting switchbacks and a fairly navigable ascent featuring ridgelines with views of Lake Cushman and the Puget Sound. At 3,900 feet the lower and upper trails merge. Once you pop out of the ridgeline at roughly 4,500 feet you’ll enter a meadowed area that features stunning alpine wildflowers which are often bursting through the soil in mid-July. If it’s wildflowers you’re after we suggest reading reviews on an app like AllTrails to keep tabs on current conditions.
If you’re after a shorter but steeper hike you’ll want to start your trip at the upper trailhead. In total this hike is 3.2 miles but don’t let the distance fool you. You immediately jump into a series of grueling switchbacks. If you’re after a lower body workout this is it! With plenty of gorgeous views and lookouts along the way you’ll have ample opportunities to rest and hydrate.
This time of year you can definitely expect snow on the drive in and on the trails. If you don’t have the proper gear or know-how you should wait until the end of May or beginning of July to hike Mount Ellinor. As I am writing this the snow on Forest Road 2419 will prevent you from accessing the lower trailhead by car and you’ll need to park about a mile from the lower trailhead. While this isn’t ideal for all hiking parties some people prefer the solitude and serenity of a snowy hike.
If you happen to plan your hike on a day that’s raining you’ll want to be extremely cautious on the rocky outcrops and stairstep risers. They are slick!
We planned this hike last summer late in the season. While we were fortunate enough to be blessed with perfect weather the meadow itself and rocky outcroppings were dry and dusty. Both my friend and I regretted not packing more water. No matter which season you plan your hike you’ll want to be sure to bring the 10 essentials. SPF and sunglasses were an absolute necessity for us and this is just the reason why it’s imperative that you double check your essentials list the night before your hike.
- Navigation (map, altimeter, compass, GPS device, or something similar + batteries)
- Headlamp + batteries
- Sun Protection (sunglasses, hat, SPF)
- First-Aid kit
- Fire (lighter, waterproof matches, tinder)
- Shelter (a lightweight bivvy is as small as a soda can and weighs < 3.5 oz.)
- Extra food
- Extra water or ability to purify
- Extra clothes
What to Expect
While most rate this hike as difficult it’s absolutely doable even if you aren’t in the best shape of your life. Give yourself plenty of time to take breaks, enjoy the magnificent ridgeline views and bring plenty of water. With switchbacks, potential for snow patches (even in summer) and general elevation gain you should consider bringing your hiking stick or poles. Your knees will thank you!
Outside of the lush forest floors and majestic old growth Douglas firs, you may be lucky enough to spot some wildlife from the trail. At lower elevations you may spot Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer. Once you reach the cliffs at the end of the trail you’ll most likely share the area with a mountain goat or two. If you aren’t up-to-date on mountain goat safety please acquaint yourself. While these furry friends appear to have grown accustomed to the presence of humans they can be temperamental and flip their attitude on a dime. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing outdoor spaces with wildlife.
Often this is the easiest aspect of a hike but rocky outcroppings, stairstep risers, snow patches and steep switchbacks can prove challenging. Rocks and stairstep risers can be especially slick if it’s recently rained so take your time and watch your footing. Truth be told one of the best things about this hike is all of the options you have once you’ve hit the road and you’re on your way home.
If you get an early start you can take a dip in Lake Cushman on your way home or stop by a local beach to partake in clam or oyster harvesting during August and September. Be sure to check the Department of Fish and Wildlife for open beaches, harvest limits and restrictions.
We personally love to support the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon and get our fill of local, fresh seafood. We strongly advise making a reservation if possible to ensure you have a nice place to rest your tired legs once you arrive for some grub. Happy hiking Walden Community!