OverviewCapitol Peak is a popular hiking destination and regionally significant mountain located in Washington. The mountain is located only approximately 12 miles southwest of Olympia, the capitol city of Washington. Its close proximity to the State Capitol, coupled with a past-noted "resemblance" to the dome of Washington State Capitol building in Olympia, is how the peak got its name. Capitol Peak is located within Capitol State Forest, which also gets its name from being closely situated near the State Capitol. For many years there was a vast belief that Capitol Peak was either the highest or second-highest peak in Thurston County. However, Quiemuth Peak, located in the far southeast corner of Thurston County, was eventually determined to be higher in elevation. Even neighboring Larch Mountain, as well as a peak named Clam Mountain (located elsewhere in the county), have been determined to be higher in elevation. Despite this, Capitol Peak is quite possibly the most popular summit destination in the county.
The summit of Capitol Peak has long been a point of interest for county and state officials. In 1929, a 114' tall wooden lookout was contructed on the summit, overlooking the forested summit area and surrounding hills, which blew down during a windstorm in 1934. A replacement lookout tower was then built on the summit in 1935, only to be torn down by the U.S. Army in 1942 to create enough space for a radar station. Some historical records imply that one or two lookouts were then built, but subsequentially fallen down and/or destroyed, between 1943 and the early 1950s, but evidence of such lookouts is limited and sketchy. Later, in 1954, the Washington State Division of Forestry constructed and commissioned a 45' tall wooden lookout tower, which stood for 13 years until the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) destroyed the tower during its first stage of phasing out and decommissioning many lookout towers throughout the state in 1967.
As years passed, the large summit area of Capitol Peak was gradually cleared of trees to make room for the next wave of technological uses for the mountain: communications towers. The low-elevation summit mixed with wide-ranging open views were ideal reasons for officials focusing on the mountaintop. Currently, there are over one dozen communications towers standing and operational on the summit area, creating an ugly sight for many outdoor enthusiasts while at the same time providing an important beacon for communications distribution within the region.
The summit offers great far-ranging views, especially for some regionally significant regions and landmarks. Puget Sound and the city of Olympia can be seen to the north. The Pacific Ocean and Satsop Nuclear Plant can be seen to the west. Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens can be seen to the east.
FROM OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON:
1) From the intersection with I-5, head west on U.S. Highway 101.
2) Within a couple of miles, take the second exit along Highway 101, the "Black Lake Blvd" exit.
3) Turn left onto Black Lake Blvd (lighted intersection).
4) Drive south along Black Lake Blvd for 4.2 miles, until a stop sign (Delphi Road).
5) Turn left onto Delphi Road and follow for 2.1 miles.
6) Turn right onto Waddell Creek Road.
7) After 2.7 miles, Waddell Creek Road turns left. Do not turn. Continue straight, and the road is Sherman Valley Road.
8) After 1.3 miles, Sherman Valley Road technically ends and the "C-Line" Forest Road of Capitol State Forest begins. There is a "Leaving Public Road System" sign near this location.
9) Drive along the "C-Line" Forest Road for 1.9 miles to a small open area, from which the "C-7000" Forest Road turns sharply right off the main road.
10) Drive along the "C-7000" Forest Road for 3.4 miles, until its end/intersection (~2350' elevation) with the "C-4000" Forest Road.
NOTE: This is a major intersection, with a lot of open space in the middle. Park in the open area, where available and where not obstructing right-of-way traffic.
11) There is a gated middle road heading northeast/uphill from road junction. This is the forest road leading to the summit. The road is not open to public vehicles, but is accessible for hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers, and other forms of non-motorized traffic.
12) Hike up the summit road for approximately 0.25 miles to the summit.
ONE-WAY DRIVING DISTANCE FROM HIGHWAY 101 TO PARKING AREA: 15.6 Miles
ROUNDTRIP HIKING DISTANCE BETWEEN PARKING AREA AND SUMMIT: 0.50 Miles
Several official trails also can be found on the mountain, and pass near the summit area. These include the Green Line #6 Trail, Mount Molly Loop Trail, and Trail #30.
Red TapeBeginning during 2011, parking areas and trailheads within and for the Capitol State Forest require a Discover Pass to be in each vehicle during the visit. Failure to have a Discover Pass visible within a parked vehicle at these locations can result in a substantial fine. For more information regarding the Discover Pass, please visit the official website.
Trails within Capitol State Forest, including those on and around Capitol Peak, are closed to motorized and equestrian uses between May 1 - November 30.
Hunting is allowed within Capitol State Forest. Please take necessary precautions (such as wearing bright colors) during hunting season. Please contact the Washington State DNR for updated hunting information.
CampingThere are multiple established campgrounds within a few miles of Capitol Peak. These include Mount Molly Campground, Fall Creek Campground, Yew Tree Campground, Middle Waddell Campground, Bordeaux Campground, and Margaret McKenny Campground.
External LinksA good website has been created for Capitol State Forest, including maps and other important information.
More detailed information regarding the fire lookout history of Capitol Peak can be found here.