Excelsior Mountain is a peak located in Wild Sky Wilderness of Washington. Although having a modest elevation (4832') when compared to many other peaks in the area, Excelsior Mountain can be a tempting peakbagging destination because the peak has nearly 1300' of prominence and is one of the more straightforward off-trail summit hikes in Wild Sky Wilderness. Despite these aspects, Excelsior Mountain is not yet a popular hiking destination in the area.
North Side Of Excelsior Mountain, As Seen From Quartz Creek
Most of the mountain is densely covered with coniferous forests. However, many slopes on the north side of the mountain contain steep rocky cliffs. The standard summit route is via the gentle-sloped forested northeast ridge of the mountain. The northeast ridge of Excelsior Mountain intercepts nearby West Cady Ridge at a saddle found along West Cady Ridge Trail #1054.
Steep Rocky North Slopes
The standard summit route for Excelsior Mountain is half on-trail, half off-trail. The route is completely YDS Class 1, as the slopes en route to the summit are not very steep or avalanche-prone, and no use of hands is needed for ascent. The standard route begins at West Cady Ridge Trail #1054, which is followed up switchbacks for approximately 1.5-2.0 miles until reaching a saddle at ~3550' elevation. From the saddle, begin ascending off-trail WSW along the northeastern ridge of Excelsior Mountain.
Ascending Forested Slopes...
The northeastern ridge is densely forested until ~4000' elevation, then opens up more higher up. Most of the slopes are not steep, with the steepest portion being a short 200' hill starting at ~4500' elevation that leads to the summit ridge. The summit ridge is hilly, but has no major slopes to traverse. There are two major bumps/contours on the summit ridge, with the western one (SW bump) being the true summit. The standard summit route is approximately 3.0-3.5 miles each way, with 2400' elevation gain.
Ascending Upper Slopes Of Northeast Ridge...
The summit itself is open, but trees surround the summit area. Despite the surrounding trees, views from the summit and summit ridge are very good to the north (towards Kyes Peak and Storm Ridge) and east (towards West Cady Ridge and beyond). The peak can be climbed year-round, but the major roads (FS-65, FS-63) leading close to the mountain might be snowed-in during Winter and early Spring months. The mountain is probably best recommended to climb to during late Spring months, while some snow is still found on the upper portions of the mountain covering brushy areas and easing descents, and during Summer months.
Summit Of Excelsior Mountain
DRIVING DIRECTIONS TO WEST CADY RIDGE TRAIL #1054:
1) Along Highway 2 a short distance east of Skykomish, turn left (north) onto Forest Service Road #6500 (a.k.a. FS-65, Beckler River Road).
2) Follow FS-65 for 14.4 miles, until an intersection with FS-63.
3) Turn right onto FS-63 and follow for 4.2 miles to the West Cady Ridge Trailhead (~2500' elevation). There are three trailheads at the parking area; West Cady Ridge Trail begins on the south side of the parking area.
A Northwest Trail Pass (i.e. parking pass) is required for parking at/near the West Cady Ridge Trail #1054.
No permits are required for hiking West Cady Ridge Trail #1054 or climbing Excelsior Mountain.
As Excelsior Mountain is located within Wild Sky Wilderness, backcountry camping on the peak is allowed. However, the peak is considered a day-hike and camping on the peak would be unusual.
The nearest official campground is San Juan Campground, located approximately seven miles west of the West Cady Ridge Trailhead along FS-63.