OverviewTumwater Mountain is a peak located on the western side of Chelan County, Washington, overlooking the city of Leavenworth. For many years the mountain has been popular with locals, whether it be for hiking, rock climbing, hunting, skiing, and snowshoeing. Despite this popularity, no official trails lead to the Tumwater Mountain's summit. Actually, hiking to the summit might be one of the least popular outdoor activities done on the mountain.
However, reaching the summit is important for many peakbaggers. Despite Tumwater Mountain's modest elevation (4480'+), the peak has a significant amount of prominence. With 2320' of clean prominence, Tumwater Mountain is the 97th-most prominent peak in Washington.
Tumwater Mountain represents the eastern side of Tumwater Canyon, a 3000' deep and nine-mile-long gorge following Wenatchee River into Leavenworth. Most of the rocks on Tumwater Mountain and in Tumwater Canyon are of quartz diorite composition. On a related topic, Drury Falls, a 1276' high tiered waterfall located across Tumwater Canyon from the northwest end of Tumwater Mountain, can only be seen in its virtual entirety from near the summit of Tumwater Mountain.
The mountain can be summited year-round. However, there are several factors that make the peak more desirable to many peakbaggers during periods of snowpack. First, if the entrance gate is closed (such as during periods of snowpack), there is no need to be careful of other vehicles on the forest roads. Second, the debris of fallen timber that litters much of the upper slopes and ridgetop can perhaps be easier to traverse if covered by deep snowpack. As a result of these factors, late Spring might be the optimum hiking timeframe for many peakbaggers, while the entrance gate is closed and the peak has enough snow-cover for a snowshoe summit hike. Or, if the debris of fallen timber on the ridgetop is not considered to be a major issue, hiking during Summer and Autumn months is definitely suitable.
Despite its name appearing at first glance to be an English name or word, the mountain was actually given an Indian name. "Tumwater" is an Indian word meaning "strong water", or "falling water". The "tum" part of the word is derived from "tumtum", which in Chinook Indian jargon means the "sound of a beating heart". The name was chosen by former U.S. Forest Supervisor A.H. Sylvester many years ago, in reference to the raging Wenatchee River that flows along Tumwater Mountain's steep west side.
FROM HIGHWAY 2 IN LEAVENWORTH, WA:
1) Turn north onto Ski Hill Drive, located near the west side of the city. Landmarks at the road intersection include "Kristall's Restaurant" and "Wells Fargo Bank".
2) After 0.6 miles, turn left onto Ranger Road.
3) After 0.6 miles, a gate is encountered (~1425' elevation).
If the gate is open, proceed with the driving instructions below.
If the gate is closed, park at the small parking area down from the gate and use the following instructions as hiking instructions.
4) The gate marks the beginning of FS-7701, which is a single-lane forest road (just like the other forest roads on Tumwater Mountain).
5) After 1.9 miles from the gate, the road splits. Turn left, heading uphill.
6) After 0.4 miles further, the road splits again. This time turn right.
7) At ~3400' elevation, after 3.6 miles from the entrance gate, a meadow basin is reached. An old forest road heads left (west) from the main road. This is the starting point for the summit hike.
8) Park off the road, making certain not to obstruct any potential vehicles that might pass by.
HIKING INSTRUCTIONS FROM MEADOW BASIN:
1) Hike west along the old forest road, which soon begins switchbacking up the mountain slopes.
2) Follow the road until its end (~4150' elevation) at the mountain ridge-crest, approximately 1.25 miles from the parking area.
3) Head south along the ridgetop for approximately 1.0 mile until reaching the summit, which is identified as being a very large (~20'-40' tall) boulder.
ROAD-HIKE SECTION: YDS Class 1... Fairly straightforward, with some fallen trees to hike around.
RIDGE-HIKE SECTION: YDS Class 2... There are many fallen trees to traverse over, under, or around, and the use of hands is occasionally needed.
SUMMIT BOULDER: YDS Class 3... No technical gear required, but a fall would be dangerous.
There are obstructed views from the summit, due to surrounding tree cover. However, there are some spectacular views elsewhere along the ridgetop.
Red TapeThere are no permits or fees required to hike Tumwater Mountain.
The entrance gate for FS-7701 is closed during Winter months and then into Spring months until snow has substantially melted off the mountain.
Regarding FS-7701 and the other forest roads on the mountain:
As already mentioned, the forest roads on Tumwater Mountain are single-lane, comprised of dirt and rock. Much of the road is rutted-out, subject to drainage/rainwater/snowmelt runoff, and has many potholes and large bumps. A passenger vehicle can make it to the meadow basin mentioned above, using extra caution and good judgement. The roads on Tumwater Mountain are not recommended for travel during periods of rainy or other inclement weather, unless perhaps the vehicle is a 4WD truck or SUV. It could even be stated that, in some sections of the roads, the descent might be worse than the ascent.
There are few automobile pullout areas along the Tumwater Mountain forest roads. Try to keep track of potential pullout sites, for two main reasons:
-> If an oncoming vehicle is coming, either your vehicle or the other vehicle will need to locate the nearest available pullout area. That might include putting the automobile in "Reverse Drive", backing up to the closest available location.
-> If you are not comfortable driving up the road, then you do not have to. In such cses, use an available automobile pullout and hike the rest of the way.
CampingThe nearest official campground is Tumwater Campground, located 8.3 miles north of Leavenworth along Highway 2.
Castle RockCastle Rock is one of the premier rock-climbing areas near Leavenworth. Located near Tumwater Mountain's southwest side, Castle Rock is one of the most frequently used and oldest YDS Class V (and above) rock-climbing areas in Washington.
Castle Rock has its own dedicated page on SummitPost, with various rock-climbing routes described within.