The Spectacular Views of Marmot Pass and Buckhorn Mountain, an Overnighter
What makes Marmot Pass an ideal destination for a weekend backpacking trip is the boundless views you get from the Buckhorn Mountain ridge, and the multitude of options for camping, including some that might get you a prime spot to watch both the sunrise and the sunset right from your tent. What more can you ask for?
13.4 miles RT and 4489' gain with a high point of 6988', Green Trails Map: Tyler Peak No 136, trailhead@ 47.8278, -123.0408 - Marmot Pass at WTA
On the trail
If you live in Seattle or nearby, there's a considerable drive to get to the Marmot Pass trailhead, including a ferry ride, but wait till you see the views. It's totally worth it.
The trail is typical northwest, wet, dark, and mossy, through an old-growth forest along the Big Quilcene River.
From the trailhead, we set our mind to hike the first 2.7 mile segment that reaches the first campground. It was foggy and humid, and all we wanted to do is pierce through the clouds and get some views. After a short break near a stream crossing, we proceeded on hiking the next segment. This part was a little steeper at the beginning, but then it eased up, and it stayed like that all the way to Camp Mystery, where we set up our camp right next to a stream making our water work very easy. We did not see any improvement in the fog cover all morning and into the evening.
After we set up camp, we had our well deserved lunch. Since the morning hike was relatively easy and short and the clouds kept us cool, we decided to start moving a bit and hiked up to the pass hoping that the 700 feet elevation gain will earn us a clear view of the surrounding, but no such luck.
Marmot Pass was in a state of complete mist, as the image below illustrates.
A thought crossed our mind to go further and hike to Buckhorn Mountain, but the fog cover was so thick that we convinced ourselves the summit would not stand above it, decision we would come to regret later when somebody showed us pictures from the peak. Buckhorn was indeed raising above the mist. Lesson learned!
Instead, we checked out the trail to the south, exploring the ridge. There we found incredible campsites and became immediately envious for those folks camping up there. The lack of extra water made us stick to our spot at the lower camp, so we resisted the urge to move camp up here.
At this very spot, a group was patiently waiting for the fog to lift, so we joined them for a while.
We gave up after a while and returned to Camp Mystery for the night. We were hopeful for the next morning.
Next day, Marmot Pass in glorious light
We came back up the following morning. Wow, what a difference! We loved this Pass!
There are so many options you can choose from to spend the day: hike up Buckhorn Mountain with incredible 360 degree views of all the nearby Olympic Mountains, the Cascades, and Puget Sound all the way to Mt St Helens and beyond. Maybe take a longer hike over to Constance Pass or just hang out at the cross-roads and meet new friends.
On our way up to Buckhorn Mountain we stopped many times to look back over Marmot Pass and the mountain range over towards south - Mount Constance and Warrior Peak and the vast valley of Heather Creek.
Mt Rainier and Mt Adams - they cannot ever hide for too long, we either hike on a nearby peak to see them or just go to them. They always make my day!
Many great mountains have a false summit, and we all know it. There is one false summit of Buckhorn Mountain too, but the walk up to the true summit is quite fun, a short walk down into a saddle and then a short scramble all the way up to the very top where the view is just amazing!
Enough with the story, now enjoy the view!
Home we go!
No mater how much we love the places we wonder to, we eventually have to return back home. And that is ok, because home is the where we plan for our next trip and dream of other places. Home is where we start and end all our adventures!
See you soon Marmot Pass, as we must come back to witness that sunset and sunrise right from our tent!