Are you looking for a sunset hike, with a decent view close to the city of Seattle? Are you tired of the crowds on Mount Si and Tiger Mountain and want to do something different but with the same difficulty? Do you want to avoid the crowds that tend to come onto I-90 peaks during the week, yet don't want to go too far to find this peak?
If you have answer yes to all of these that McDonald Mountain is the perfect peak for you. The triple summit peak located 10 miles east of Covington may not be as special as many of the higher Cascades but is a worthy alternative to Mount Si, West Tiger Mountain and Cougar Mountain. It rarely sees any traffic and though the view on the summit is as amazing as higher peaks. The false summits view is about has good as the true summit view area. Each have a good view west which on a clear day features a good shot of the Olympic Mountains, downtown Seattle as well as a side view of the foothills around Enumclaw. It should be noted that the to time I was there I encountered limited views.
Getting there is easy because it is right off the Kent-Kangley Highway. The YDS Class 1, 12 mile roundtrip, 3500 foot elevation gain, dirt road serves as the path to the summit of McDonald Mountain. On the way up the road you pass through a clearcut which features great views north towards Cougar, Tiger and Mount Si. The route then enters the trees with peek-a-boo views until it reachs the fire tower which is on the northern false summit of the peak. Many of the views west are seen from here.
To reach the true you must continue heading southeast for another two miles towards the middle of the ridge. There is a set of 4WD paths that is now highly brushy that head in a SE direction (bring compass and GPS here) that continues southeast until hitting a junction with the main dirt road just before the summit. The true summit as limited views to the south. For more info on the route to the top, check on this page and go down to McDonald Mountain. It should be noted that the route drawn on the map does cross into the Tacoma watershed so I would strongly advise all hikers trying to summit this mountain to stay high on the ridge and head to the true summit from the false summit.
McDonald Mountain can be done at anytime, however winter and evenings are clearly the best time to try for this mountain. In winter this fairly gradual roadwalk makes for a lower elevation snowshoe hike. This mountain is also great as an evening hike because it is easy to navigate down at night and the sunset views over the Olympics make this mountain very inviting.