The Quintessential Seattle Hike: Mount Si

12 Jun

A few weekends ago it was a beautiful day and we needed to use our Zipcar quota for the month so James and I decided to hike Mount Si. It’s a 3150 foot (960 meter) elevation gain over 8 miles, so a nice leg workout.

I read somewhere that it’s the most hiked trail in Washington, so we were prepared for crowds. We arrived in the parking lot around 9:15am, snagging one of the last available parking spots.

As you can see it’s not particularly scenic on the way up. The majority of the route is through the trees, so at least you don’t have the sun on you.
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Most people on Yelp said they reached the summit basin in 2.5 hours, one guy ran up in under an hour, and someone said that 2 hours was reasonable for someone in decent shape. James wasn’t feeling 100% (getting over a cold and some lingering asthma) but we made it up in 1.5 hours.

I often had to trot to keep up with James. It was pretty much constant uphill broken up by slightly steeper uphills. I do feel that my hill sprints paid dividends here – I definitely couldn’t sustain a jog but it wasn’t a huge deal to break into an uphill run every so often to catch up to James.

Also, and I’m sure this is only interesting to me, but my glutes only started getting sore during the last 20% of the ascent. I’m super quad-dominant so I think that’s how long it took for my quads to tire out and stop doing all the work.

As predicted, it was a really busy hike. We were constantly passing people on the way up and there was a steady stream of people on their way down. This is how many people were at the entrance to the summit basin, and by the time we left it was 2-3 times as packed.
IMG_3682It was entertaining doing some people-watching. Hikers ran the gamut from young kids to the elderly, the super fit to the obese. Some people were in jeans and others were kitted out with massive packs and hiking poles (and James got a fair few comments about his Vibrams). We also passed a brave little chihuahua.

We spent some time exploring the area; scrambling over rocks and finding nice views (protip: pretty much everywhere had a nice view).
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The good thing about the summit basin was that it was really spread out, so even with the crowds it was easy to find somewhere secluded to sit and admire the view.

This was where we had lunch (I may have taken James by surprise when I took this photo).
IMG_3708After lunch we decided to climb the Haystack, which is the true summit of Mount Si. When we were hiking up we hadn’t decided either way, but once we saw it we thought it was doable.
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On a sunny, dry day like ours it wasn’t difficult (lots of easy handholds and places to put your feet), but it is a little scary because if you lose your footing you can fall a long way, and apparently people have died doing it. Plus sometimes people higher up would accidentally kick loose rocks down.

There were a lot of people attempting it but not many people made it all the way up. I don’t think we saw any of the people in this photo at the top.
IMG_3716Funnily enough, although James is afraid of heights – he doesn’t even like being in a chairlift – he was fine climbing the Haystack. He said he doesn’t like relying on things that aren’t himself to keep from falling.
IMG_3717Although the WTA website recommends against climbing the Haystack I was really glad we did it, and James said it was his favourite part of the hike.

The view at the top was pretty similar to the basin, but I guess a bit more panoramic. I don’t think it’s worth climbing to get the slightly less obstructed view, but if you feel like some additional work and are a completionist it’s nice to get to the true summit.
IMG_3723It’s also a lot less crowded at the top – maybe 5-10 people at a time compared to 100+ spread around the summit basin. We chatted to the others up there and had a nice time just looking around and taking everything in.

IMG_3726Going down the Haystack was trickier than going up, but there weren’t any worrying parts. Some bits it was easier to do facing the wall and other parts it was easier to face out.
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But yeah, not technically difficult by any means – just a matter of taking it slow and making sure you had good footing.

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By the time we’d finished mucking around on top it had gotten massively more busy at the summit base as a several big groups arrived. Mount Si is the wrong hike if you’re after a solitary experience, but it’s as challenging as you choose to make it with a phenomenal view (and optional fun climb) to reward you at the end.
IMG_2100We trotted the whole way down, but it didn’t make much difference to our time – maybe because I was in the lead. A slow jog down, not even fast enough to start breathing heavily, was about as fast as I felt comfortable going, and our descent took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Afterwards we met up with Rian and Sandra for dinner at Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle for victory fish and chips, fries and sliders.
IMG_3759I don’t think the food is as good as their other locations (still tasty!), but it makes up for it with cocktails and the view across the water towards Seattle. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Seattle day.
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2 Responses to “The Quintessential Seattle Hike: Mount Si”

  1. Sarah June 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    amazing views! Great photos as usual.

    • pamperedhousewife June 18, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

      Thank you! =) Though really all I did was point my phone in the general direction of the amazing views. 😉

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