Trail Name: Index Town Wall
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
In Index, the only landmark more stunning than Mount Index is the Index Town Wall, a 1,200-foot backdrop of sheer granite cliffs. Renowned among climbers for its 50-plus routes and some of the best vertical terrain in the Northwest, it also has a not-so-well known hiking trail leading to its top.
From the trailhead, walk up a service road and immediately cross a set of railroad tracks. Turn right on the road (staying off the active tracks) and after 0.2 miles come to a picnic table by a big steel door in the cliff face. A two-hundred foot bore, created to test a machine that tunneled under the English Channel, lies behind this door.
The trail to the top of the Index Wall is to the right of the picnic table at the forest edge. Begin a steep grunt uphill, ascending nearly 1,300 feet in just over one mile. Through the thick forest, march up steep slopes and duck under, around and over overhanging ledges. Avoid climbing paths that diverge from the main path lest you end up in a precarious spot.
After 1.2 miles, reach an old road doubling as a creek bed. Turn right and follow this rocky route 0.1 mile to the top of the wall. Exercising extreme caution, slowly approach the edge of the sheer cliff to take in an amazing view. Gaze directly below at the town of Index on the North Fork of the Skykomish River, and out at the dramatic row of peaks of the Wild Sky Wilderness.
Watch For: Climbers on the stark vertical walls.
Getting there: From Seattle, follow SR 522 for 25 miles to Monroe. Then head east on US 2 for 22 miles. Turn left onto the North Fork Road (Index–Galena Road). After 1 mile, turn left onto 5th Street. Cross river into Index and proceed to second stop sign, then turn left onto Index Avenue. Follow for 0.3 miles (road bends south to become 2nd Street) to the stop sign. Turn right onto Avenue A and follow 0.6 miles (road becomes Reiter Road) to a parking area on the right.
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Winter Hikes of Western Washington.