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Boundary Trail

Boundary Trail

Boundary Trail

Page Type: Route

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 46.77280°N / 121.8989°W

Object Title: Boundary Trail

Route Type: Scramble / Cross-Country Travel

Time Required: Most of a day

Difficulty: Class 3-4

Route Quality: 
 - 2 Votes


Page By: mandrake

Created/Edited: May 30, 2005 / Oct 4, 2011

Object ID: 165260

Hits: 2705 

Page Score: 0%  - 0 Votes 

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Park outside the Nisqually Entrance across the road from the Gateway Inn. Walk back through the gate and then head left along the section of road where vehicles exit the park (separate section of road from that of the entrance station). Continue past the two buildings on your left and just past the buildings locate the unmarked beginning of the Boundary Trail. The trail circles back up behind one of the buildings -- and a short distance up is a metal sign: "Trail Not Maintained" which indicates you're on the right track. Trailhead elevation ~2100'.

Alternate Start:
It is also possible to start via the Goat Creek approach and ascend the ridge directly across the creek to the south. This cuts off probably some 1500' gain of approach along the Boundary Trail.

Route Description

The Boundary Trail, while unmaintained, is pretty easy to follow. It switchbacks up a first ridge, then drops down the far side again. There was a good deal of blow-down on the far side and I lost the trail here briefly -- but basically it heads straight down bearing slightly left. If you look around for it down below, you should be able to pick it up again pretty easily. The trail continues downwards, crosses Tenas Creek, and then begins to climb/switchback in earnest heading relentlessly up the ridge, paralleling the boundary of the national park.

At about 4200' the Boundary Trail reaches the ridgetop -- here, turn off right/east and continue on and up the ridge. The ridgetop is fairly broad at first (bit brushy, but easy going), but after a short distance it begins to narrow and you'll pick up the remnants of an old user trail. This spur ridge goes up and down a bit on its approach to Wow's south ridge, eventually steepening and requiring some fun class 3 scrambling along a rocky spine. (When in doubt, stay on top of the ridge.) At about 5200' the user trail peters out -- continue onward and keep an eye out on the left (north) side of the ridge for a clear grassy slope just above a thicket of slide alder. Once you've found it, begin traversing climber's left and gradually making your way north and upward through several bands of trees until you're directly below the cliffs of the south ridge (part of Point 5614). Continue upwards to reach the cliffs and parallel them north. Eventually you'll reach a somewhat sketchy bit of the traverse -- requiring a crossing of some downwards sloping rock covered with loose gravel with a rocky run-out where you may want a fixed line for safety (may be better in the early season when it's covered in snow). On the far side you'll see a bit of a trail (goat track?) heading upwards to gain the ridge which is the direction you want to go. It may be possible to avoid the sketchy terrain by taking a lower traverse.

Once across this sketchy section, head upwards with some easy bushwacking to gain the grassy ridgetop with the first views of Mt. Rainier. To the north you may be able to spy the summit of Mt. Wow through the trees. Continue following the ridge northwards until it drops down into a saddle area: an open clearing/meadow just on the left/west side of the ridge. Continue on and up through the meadow and through another short stretch of trees to reach the base of the alpine meadows below Wow's summit. Continue upwards, gradually to climber's right and scramble up easy rock bands just below the summit. Another push puts you up on top with views to the north, east and south and - WOW! - great views of Mt. Rainier across the valley. The pinnacle, Point 5614 on the south ridge looks impressive from up here.

The Summit:
The true summit appears to be a small pinnacle just to the north of the area where you top out at. There's some minor exposure along the ridge, but it's a short easy scramble up the north side. Tagging this may be a good idea to guarantee that you've properly nabbed the summit of Mt. Wow.

It appears possible to head north down the ridge. There may be climbing approaches one can take to get here from the vicinity of Lake George.

Alternate Descent:
It's possible to do a bit of a loop - I wasn't excited about going back down the SW ridge, so decided to head down via the east side of Wow's south ridge. Returning to the saddle area, I dropped into a small drainage and followed it down, cutting slightly south to reach Lake Allen. Reportedly there is still an old trail that fishermen used to use to reach the lake (see other approaches), although I was not able to locate it. To descend, I crossed the lake's outflow to the south side and began my descent. Some steep sections, but otherwise pretty easy going on the way down. Just go down wherever is easiest. Easy bushwhacking with little to no undergrowth. Keep going down until you hit the Westside Road.

4-6hrs up, 3-4hrs down to the West Side Road, another hour to hike back to the car at the park entrance. Car shuttle is nice if you can swing it to avoid walking along the shoulder of the road.

Essential Gear

Topo-map of the area & good route-finding skills; being comfortable off-trail and, at times, sketchy terrain.
May want a fixed line for the sketchy traverse (and/or descent). There is some danger of rockfall in traversing below the cliffs; helmet is a good idea. Early in the season, if there's snow, definitely ice axe & crampons. There is likely some avalanche hazard on Mt. Wow in the winter.


The south ridge of Mt. Wow,...Lake Allen as seen from atop...Looking back across the...Route from the Boundary Trail...