OverviewWhen looking for a relatively unknown but easy-to-traverse summit hike in the Snoqualmie River Valley, you've got to ask yourself one question:
"Do I feel lucky?"
Dirty Harry's Peak, known by some mountaineers as West Defiance Mountain, presents just such an experience. Conveniently located between two well-hiked peaks, Mailbox Peak and Mount Defiance, Dirty Harry's Peak is surprisingly underrated and untested by most hikers. This summit hike offers a scenic, easy-to-follow route crossing small streams and offering several breathtaking viewpoints.
The route has a 3300' elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit, in approximately four miles, giving this route an overall moderate difficulty but pleasant experience.
HistorySeveral decades ago, Harry Gault was a local independent logger who gained a reputation for relentless logging near North Bend, Washington. He built roads and logged trees in places thought by other loggers to be too inaccessible to attempt. This reputation eventually led people to give him the nickname of "Dirty Harry".
Now, many years after "Dirty Harry" stopped logging on his namesake peak, some rusty artifacts from his logging past can still be found along and near his old logging road. Harry had even left behind an old truck and some other logging artifacts at an undisclosed location he called the "Museum", also known as "Dirty Harry's Museum". Most hikers looking for this "Museum" never find it, as every year it becomes more hidden by brush and trees.
Getting ThereHeading east on I-90, take Exit 38. Turn right onto old U.S. Route 10 and follow the old highway two miles, after passing Olallie State Park and passing back underneath I-90, to a yellow gate marking the entrance to the State Fire Training Center area. If heading west on I-90, take Exit 38, turn right, and the yellow gate is less than 1/4-mile away.
The gate is said to close at 4:00 PM daily. If the gate is open and enough time is allowed, you may proceed on the road for one mile to the trailhead. The trailhead can be easily overlooked but is represented by two concrete blocks at the entrance to the route. Parking off-road is necessary and space is very limited; the grassy area across the road from the trailhead might offer the best parking options. However, if the yellow gate is closed or if there is an apprehensiveness about the exact time of closure for the gate, there is plenty of parking available in the wide area outside of the gate.
NOTE: Multiple people have claimed seeing the yellow gate being closed at times other than 4:00 PM. Because of this, most hikers opt to park in the wide area outside the game (but do not block it, regardless of weather or time) and walk along the State Fire Training Center road for one mile to the trailhead.
Route DescriptionFirst, I highly recommend referencing Green Trails Map #206S. It very accurately shows the route to the summit of Dirty Harry's Peak.
The trailhead starts at an elevation of 1380'. Hike up Dirty Harry's Logging Road-Trail 1.5 miles until the route forks (elevation 2540'). There is a cairn, large rusty can, and some other small rusty artifacts marking this spot. The woodland path to the right goes 1/2-mile to Dirty Harry's Balcony (elevation 2613'), a rocky outcropping offering great views of the Snoqualmie River Valley on clear days. This optional extra path is highly recommended, and doesn't take much time to traverse.
From the intersection with the path leading to Dirty Harry's Balcony, Dirty Harry's Logging Road-Trail continues to the left. After 0.7 miles from that intersection, Museum Creek crosses the road-trail (elevation 3060'). Legend has it that "Dirty Harry's Museum" can be found near this location. Standard hikers continue up the road, while other more adventurous hikers stop to look for the infamous "Museum". According to many maps, Museum Creek marks the official "end" of Dirty Harry's Logging Road, despite it obviously continuing.
The road soon switchbacks, with a steep slope of Dirty Harry's Peak on the leftside of the trail. After approximately 0.4 miles from the Museum Creek crossing, there is a steep rocky turnoff on the left side of the road. Walk up this left turn.
NOTE: If you continue past this intersection on the main logging road the path will start heading downhill, eventually ending at a small pond.
Shortly after the rocky turnoff from Dirty Harry's Logging Road, the route also sharply switchbacks left and passes by a talus slope. Some adventurous mountaineers opt to climb this steep talus slope towards the summit rather than continue on the main summit route. The main summit route, on the other hand, is approximately 1.1 miles from the left rocky turnoff (from Dirty Harry's Logging Road) to the summit of Dirty Harry's Peak. During this stretch of the main summit route, the road eventually turns into more of a true trail and gets very steep in places.
Near the top of the peak, the area opens up a little. Old metal logging cables might be found on the ground, and perhaps even a cairn or two. Follow the trail all the way to the actual summit (4680'). On a clear day the summit of Dirty Harry's Peak offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier to the south, Mount Defiance to the east, and as far as Mount Baker to the north. The views to the west, however, are fairly limited due to higher-elevation Dirtybox Peak obstructing the views; even nearby Mailbox Peak is not visible because of that highpoint. To the northeast, one of the (two) Granite Lakes can be seen.
Red TapeThe yellow gate at the entrance to the State Fire Training Center area is said to be closed daily at 4:00 PM, although some people have claimed seeing the gate closed during other times. As a result, even if the yellow gate is open, most hikers opt to park in the wide area outside of the gate and walk from there. However, this adds an extra mile of walking (each direction) to the trip.
Although no official requirements are given, it might be advisable to have a Northwest Forest Pass (just in case).