Trail Name: Old Mount Si Trail
Distance: 6 miles round trip
The main trail up Mount Si is kind of like I-5 at rush hour; it’s very crowded but it’s a very useful route. Peakbagger estimates that as many as 100,000 people ascend the North Bend peak every year, many in training for greater alpine ascents (that’s why you see so many people day-hiking with giant packs and checking their watches—two hours is considered a decent time to the top). Parking lots fill immediately on weekend days.
But the Old Trail, which dates back to the 1930s, is the secret to a semi-quiet day on the mountain. Start on the Little Si Trail, which has two parking lots—they’re the first two after crossing the red bridge on Mt. Si Road. About a quarter mile beyond the trailhead, bear right when the Little Si route banks left; after a full mile, there are signs for the Boulder Garden loop while the Old Mount Si trail continues straight. It’s all uphill from here.
Unlike the more meandering new trail, this slog has few switchbacks and no viewpoints (it’s shorter, but climbs the same 3,150 feet). Near the top, the two paths almost touch; Old Trailers used to the peace and quiet may be stunned by the solid line of hikers they see through the trees.
Finally, a mere 100 yards or so from the summit clearing, the two trails do merge. The rocky expanse at the bottom of the Haystack (a giant rock you should only climb with scramble experience) is almost always crowded, but the views of Rainier, the Olympics, Seattle, and Bellevue are worth sharing the lunch spot.
Watch For: Snow covers the top quarter mile well into the spring, so trekking poles and micro spikes are advised.
Getting There: From exit 31 on I-90, take Bendigo Boulevard, then a right on E North Bend Way. Turn left after a mile onto Mt Si Road and immediately cross a red steel bridge. Parking lots are on the left and require a Discover Pass.
Time From Seattle: 40 minutes
Find more Seattle-area trails here.