This was our family’s first big hike of 2015 and we climbed a real mountain.
This weekend the weather forecast announced that the mercury could hit 70 for the first time in 2015. It was clearly time for our family to hit the trail and attempt our first peak of the season.
I have bigger plans this year, and it includes several mountains but I wanted to test my kids and see what we can accomplish this year. Kids grow every year, both physically and mentally. Every year you can try new things and set bigger goals with your kids, but you always need to include them in your planning and check where they are at.
Mount Rose is a smaller peak in the Olympic Range, measuring at 4,300ft in elevation. What makes this trail interesting is the 3,500ft of elevation gain over 3.2 miles. Mount Rose has just the right mix of physical challenge, combined with a well-maintained and safe trail. The snow had already melted this year and the trail doesn’t have any exposed ledges – those ones, we will tackle later this Summer (don’t tell my kids!)
For adventures like these I usually try to have hiked the trail myself before, but this weekend we had Doug with us who has been up to this particular peak many times. I felt comfortable taking on this challenge with the kids.
The night before our hike, we talked to them about the upcoming trail. We got our backpacks ready, gathered our hiking boots and prepared our gear. We prepped the food, and the water bottles as well, so the next morning all we needed to do was to slip into our hiking clothes, eat our breakfast, and hit the road. Doing this is one of the keys to having a good day on the trails with your kids: for more tips on getting a family ready for a hike read my article 18 Tips for an Amazing Family Trip in America’s Wilderness.
Leaving before 9 am on a weekend day is a huge win in my book and Mount Rose, just off of Lake Cushman by Hoodsport, Washington, is just a short hour away from our basecamp in Olympia. We’d be early on the trail, which was important, since the following day the kids would be back in school.
We stopped at the IGA grocery store in Hoodsport, and grabbed some donuts while connecting with Doug. This grocery store is quickly turning into one of our favorite pit stops along 101 on the Olympic Peninsula.
From Hoodsport the trail head is just a 20 minutes car ride toward the Olympic National Park Staircase entrance. Follow the signs and take a left towards Staircase. The road will turn into a dusty forest road along Lake Cushman until you see a sign to the trail head parking lot on the right.
Once we had gathered all our stuff, food, plenty of water and of course the LEGO Bionicle robot and stuffed animal for special photo ops along the way, we hit the trail. We signed ourselves into the trail book and made our way into the forest up the many steep switchbacks.
The first 30-45 minutes on a longer hike are really crucial for the kids. Most kids ten and under don’t get the concept of a long hike and you can’t start coaxing them with candy a mere 15 minutes from the car. Telling the right stories, distracting them with things to see, and most of all ensuring they went potty before you hit the trail, are all super important things to remember.
The beautifully maintained and shady trail leads over several fun bridges, winding itself through the forest up the mountain and away from the lake. On the trail, you’ll hike through an area that was burned by a wildfire in 2006. Some caution is advised and you can see blackened tree stumps everywhere.
This hike isn’t a full ‘out and back’ hike. The first section offers plenty of lookout spots and a couple of benches to take a breather. After a good 90 minutes or about 2000ft of elevation gain you reach the Summit Loop connection point.
There you have two options to reach the summit. I’d suggest heading right which lead up through several steep sections until you reach a ledge which will lead you to the summit at 4,300 ft. You’re legs will burn, but it will be worth it. The ledge isn’t very exposed, almost the entire trail you’re surrounded by trees, but there are a few steps which will require you to hold your smaller kids’ hand as you make your way to the top.
The peak itself is a big bolder which can be climbed and offers amazing views of the surrounding peaks, Copper Peak, Mount Ellinor and Lake Cushman below. Toward the South you can see Mount Rainier looming in the distance and on good weather days you can see Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.
We ate our lunch in the shade of the summit boulder, rested our legs, and snapped our pictures with the LEGO Bionicle robot and pink unicorn stuffy – like one does.
We hit the thicker forest again and started going faster, even jogging in some sections. Once the trail widened a bit, I was able to run side-by-side with my younger one and we were able to get down the mountain pretty speedy.
All in all we took around 6 hours to complete the hike, which included lots of breaks. Candy breaks, our longer lunch break at the summit, of course stops to take photos and a couple moments of talking to’s.
We had an incredible time on trail 814 up to Mount Rose. The kids were tired and our legs burned, but it was totally worth it.
Back at the car we kicked of the hiking boots and switched them for flip flops. Before heading back home we stopped at the grocery store in Hoodsport for celebratory ice creams and Pringles, cause that’s how the Eichlers celebrate a successful summit push.
We’re a family of four with two kids, age six and ten.
(We have no pets, and no weird stick-family on the back window of our car, thank you very much.)
We love exploring our backyard in the Upper Left of the United States; the Great Pacific Northwest. We enjoy the beaches of our local State Parks, hike the trails in our rainforests, and we climb the mountain peaks on the Olympic Peninsula.