Quiemuth Peak has no views from the summit, minimal technical climbing, and a relatively low elevation. So why does this peak have such regional importance for hikers, climbers, and peakbaggers? The reason: Quiemuth Peak is the highest point in Thurston County, Washington, and its name has historical significance in the region.
Standing at 2922’ elevation, Quiemuth Peak is Washington State’s 32nd highest County Highpoint (out of 39 total). For many years, it was widely believed the highest point in Thurston County was actually either Larch Mountain or Capitol Peak, both located in Capitol State Forest further west in the county, until USGS surveyors later determined Quiemuth Peak, isolated in the far southeastern corner of the county, was the true county highpoint. Quiemuth Peak is located just north of the county line, along the same north-south ridgeline as higher Stahl Mountain, which is located a short distance south of the county line in neighboring Lewis County.
What Quiemuth Peak lacks for viewpoints it more than makes up for with lush lowland alpine vegetation and forest. In fact, the peak is the centerpiece for an isolated section of Snoqualmie National Forest located on the southwestern side of Alder Lake. Scattered throughout the forested slopes are old-growth evergreen trees, some quite large. Elk and deer are abundant on the mountain, as are grouse, owls, and hawks. Once heavily forested, the summit used to have wonderful views of the Olympic Mountains and nearby Alder Lake. Now, after many years of no logging on the peak, the summit is totally engulfed by thick forest and has no views. On the west side of the summit ridgetop the forested summit is marked by a cairn and summit register, which is currently a jar containing signatures from some of the country’s prominent county highpointers.
There are two main routes for summiting Quiemuth Peak, with possibilities for others. The old standard summit route is the least technical, yet longest route, which basically follows NFD (National Forest Develop) #74 Road (and several other roads) circling around the east, north, west, and south sides of the mountain for approximately 8.5 miles until the end of Road #017 and then a 300’ elevation bushwhack climb to the summit. The shortest route, however, climbs 0.5 miles and has 1000’ elevation gain west over the peak’s southeastern ridgeline, then follows Road #017 until its end, and then a 300’ elevation bushwhack climb to the summit. Another possible route would be to follow NFD #74 Road until north of the mountain, then try to locate/follow old NFD #75 Road that leads up the northern slopes until approximately 2400’ elevation, and then bushwhack climb the final 500’ forested northern slope to the summit.
During October 2009, local peakbagger Greg Schmidt determined another possible route for Quiemuth Peak, mostly involving hiking along logging roads until near the summit. This route is longer than the "SE Ridge Traverse" option but shorter than the "#74 Road" option. Here is the link to Greg Schmidt's trip report describing his route.
The Legend of Quiemuth
The Thurston County Historic Commission voted to name the highpoint “Quiemuth Peak” in 1993. The name was then approved by the State Board of Geographic Names on December 10, 1993. The name is a tribute to Quiemuth, one of the most prominent and influential Native Americans in the Puget Sound area when Washington Territory (of which most later became Washington State) was created in 1853. When Isaac Stevens became the first governor of Washington Territory, he commissioned Quiemuth and his more-famous half-brother Leschi as sub-chiefs of the Nisqually and Puyallup tribes for the Medicine Creek Council in 1854, from which a treaty created the original Nisqually Reservation. However, the initial reservation location was not desirable for most of the Nisqually people and helped to provide the catalyst for the Puget Sound War (1855-56), from which Quiemuth was one of the pivotal figures.
Then, in 1856, Governor Stevens agreed to create better reservations for the Puget Sound tribes, but he also considered Quiemuth and Leschi as enemies to his government. A short time later, Leschi was captured during the war. Quiemuth, growing weary of the fighting between the tribes and Stevens' government, decided to turn himself in to authorities. While en route to jail at Fort Steilacoom, Quiemuth and his jailor (James Longmire) spent one night in the territory capitol of Olympia. While there, Governor Stevens met with Quiemuth, giving him food and a pipe of tobacco. As Quiemuth smoked the tobacco, he pronounced Stevens as a "good man" who would not hurt him. A common bond and truce finally seemed forthcoming between the two leaders. Stevens then allowed Quiemuth and Longmire to sleep in the governor’s office for the rest of the night. Then, during the early morning hours of November 18, 1856, somebody snuck into the office, shooting and stabbing Quiemuth as he slept and killing him. Although one person was temporarily arrested for the homicide, no person was ever proven guilty due to lack of evidence and witnesses. The murder of Quiemuth, followed by the execution of Leschi several months later, ended the Puget Sound War and left a long-standing impact on the region and its inhabitants.
Getting ThereFrom Elbe, WA:
1) Follow Highway 7 south for 2.1 miles, to Pleasant Valley Road.
2) Turn right on Pleasant Valley Road.
3) After 3.5 miles, Pleasant Valley Road ends at the intersection with NFD #74 Road. Park near this intersection, along Pleasant Valley Road.
4) After 0.2 miles, encounter two gates. Take the left gate, which continues following NFD #74 Road. (The rightside gate leads to the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Area.)
A sign at the intersection of NFD #74 Road and Pleasant Valley Road says “U.S.F.S. Road #74 will be closed from Memorial Day until Labor Day.” However, due to several major washouts of that road, and no repair plans currently enacted, the gate and road is currently closed to vehicles every day of the year until further notice.
No parking is allowed along NFD #74 Road. Park any vehicles along the wesetern shoulder of Pleasant Valley Road, near the intersection of the two roads.
No permits are required for parking along Pleasant Valley Road, but a “Trail Park Pass” is advised to not draw suspicion of possible abandoned vehicles on the seldom-used road.
CampingOvernight camping is not allowed on or near Quiemuth Peak, located in Snoqualmie National Forest.
Weather ConditionsThe current weather forecast at Elbe, one of the nearest towns to Quiemuth Peak:
External LinksThe County Highpointers website section dedicated to Quiemuth Peak.
Quiemuth Peak is found within USGS Map "Eatonville".