OverviewThere are several peaks in Washington State named "Bare Mountain". The particular one discussed here is located on the western side of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
The summit of Bare Mountain offers one of the best panoramic viewpoints in the Central Cascades. This once provided an ideal location for a past fire lookout at the summit, but all that remains today of the lookout are a few poles and cables. On a clear day, a person can see three of Washington's five volcanoes: Mount Rainier to the south, Mount Baker to the north, and Glacier Peak to the northeast. Several other major peaks in the western region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, as well as other high peaks not located in the Wilderness Area such as Mount Phelps and McClain Peaks, can be seen from the Bare Mountain summit.
Travelers reach the summit via Bare Mountain Trail #1037, a fairly non-technical 4.5-mile (each way) trail. As a typical trail found in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the route traverses through different terrain types, has multiple scenic viewpoints, and is accessible to several alpine lakes and streams.
The trail begins at 2200' elevation, gradually climbing through a young lowland forest and crossing several small streams along the way. The trail becomes increasingly rocky as it progresses.
After approximately 1.0 mile, the trail intersects with Bear Creek. This is perhaps the most "technical" part of the trail, needing to cross the creek via walking across logs, hopping across rocks, and/or wading in the water. Be careful; the logs and rocks can be slick any time of the year. Bear Creek is in the form of a cascading waterfall at this location.
After crossing Bear Creek and going up a small incline, the trail becomes steadily steeper and rockier for at least another 1/2-mile as it crosses through a forest, a meadow, another forest, and then another meadow. There will be some old-growth trees seen just prior to exiting the lowland forested area for the last time. After approximately 1.0 miles from the Bear Creek crossing, the trail meets the southern slope of Bare Mountain from an upper meadow of Bear Creek.
From this location, the trail immediately begins to switchback up the steep southern slope of Bare Mountain for the final 2.5 miles of the route. This sloped section of the trail encounters different terrain, ranging from bracken/ underbrush, evergreen forest, and talus. Be especially careful in the Summer and Fall months, when bracken and underbrush can become so thick that the trail can be covered over in places and hide hidden dangers such as loose ground and underground springs.
With approximately 1/4-mile prior to reaching the summit, at a switchback turning west (left), a very short side-trail/spot to the right provides the first great views of Paradise Lakes and Bench Lake, located in a gully down the northeastern slopes of Bare Mountain.
Then, approximately 4.5 miles after Bare Mountain Trail #1037 began, is the summit of Bare Mountain. The summit provides a breathtaking panoramic view in all directions. In 1935, the U.S. Forest Service built a L-4 cab fire lookout at the summit, but then the lookout was decommissioned and destroyed in 1973. Few remnants of the fire lookout remain today, but with the wide-ranging views it's easy to see why this was originally an ideal location for a fire lookout.
Getting ThereDrive along I-90 to Exit #31 (North Bend). Drive around the roundabout to head north.
After approximately 0.7 miles, turn right on North Bend Way.
Drive two blocks to Ballarat Road and take a left.
Follow the road (it might change names) for nearly 4.0 miles until a "Y" intersection. Turn onto the road on the leftside going up the hill. This is North Fork County Road #57.
Follow North Fork County Road #57 for approximately 18 miles, until the road turns left and crosses the river.
NOTE: After approximately 13-14 miles, there is an intersection where the main road appears to head straight uphill along a dirt road and past a yellow gate. DO NOT take that road. It is private property, and drivers can get fined for entering that area. The main gravel road actually goes the left of that intersection, but it can be deceiving at times.
After crossing the river as mentioned above, take the first intersection to the right. This is still considered as North Fork County Road #57.
Follow this road for approximately 3.0 miles to Bare Mountain Trail #1037. The trailhead will be on the leftside of the road; park on the rightside of the road.
Red TapeA Northwest Forest Pass is required when parking a vehicle in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
ALL hikers must acquire a Wilderness Permit before hiking on the Bare Mountain Trail #1037, or elsewhere in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Wilderness Permits are free, and can be found at the trailhead's registration box.
Dogs must remain on leashes at all times while on Bare Mountain Trail #1037, or elsewhere in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.