Hard Knox Life

Page Type
Trip Report
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Sep 3, 2015
Hiking, Scrambling
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Hard Knox Life
Created On: Sep 7, 2015
Last Edited On: Jan 20, 2016


It has not been the greatest summer for me this year so I was trying to find a mountain that would perfectly fit the kind of summer that I have had. The weather in Washington State was the hottest it ever was, and by August much of the state was on fire. My work schedule went all over the place and as a result another year seems to go on by the wayside when it comes to hiking. But with a couple of storms comes an opportunity to at least snag this peak to start off this September. 


Looking at Hard Knox
The Goal for the Day


The weather forecast was iffy at best. There was a 50% chance of showers with a potential mix to snow in the higher elevation. But Zypherus and I were determined to make this trip happen. Neither of us have been hiking this summer and really just want to get some sort of hiking going before the fall season. Any sort of summit would be a great victory so Hard Knox due to its close proximity to Seattle but being over the Cascade Crest became our destination. Because the hike was only 6 miles and 2000 of elevation gain was also very appealing because we did not want to spend a long time out on a rainy day.

Map of the Route
Map of the Route

Heading Up

After driving through heavy downpour and hail we finally made it to the trailhead only to find beautiful sunshine and the beginning of fall colors. The air which through much of the summer was either very hot or very smoky was nice and clear. For us this was a very good sign. We got ourselves ready and soon we were off hitting the trail. The Knox Creek Trail was in good condition up to the ridgeline. Through its many openings we were able to spot good views of Hard Knox and many of the other summits in the area. 
On our way up though we did into the first in a series of small showers in the area. Luckily this group of clouds of all bark and very little bite and we only got a couple of drops of water on us. This pattern though would continue throughout the hike. From the top of the ridge we ran into the Kachess Ridge Trail where we headed south. We went over one highpoint that I later heard is now referred as "Easy Knox". This highpoint had good views of not only Hard Knox but many of the other mountains in the region including Mount Daniel and Mount Stuart. We could see clouds to the west but they did not look too threatening. We did sit on "Easy Knox" for a little bit before heading on over to Hard Knox.
Hard Knox from the north
Hard Knox from the north

More stunning fall color
Stunning fall colors
Reds and yellows
Reds and yellows

The second part of this trail was a little more interesting than the first part of the trail. The first part just required us to go up the hill to the "Easy Knox" highpoint. The second part of the trail was a little spicy with the narrow trail a very steep slope. This would not have been much of a problem expect for some of the loose gravel made for some iffy footing. The catwalk was an eye opener for what was until that point jus another very easy hike.  The traverse was though small and soon we were at the base of the Hard Knox scramble.

Looking at Fools Day Peak
Looking down to the valley
Beautiful landscape
Stunning views

Storm arriving at the Hard Knox summit 

Redwic's description of the Hard Knox scramble from the southeast was very accurate here. We made fairly quick work of the Class 2 scramble/off trail to the summit. The last little bit was mostly a off-field walkup with some hand scrambling toward the very top. There is no exposure if you stay on route until you reach the summit and it is very doable for even the most novice of scramblers.


Storm coming in
Nice stormy greetings


When we arrived though we were greeted by a storm though that was quickly coming in onto the summit of Hard Knox. We did have some good views from the summit but things were starting to darken up. Slowly but surely we could see the storm quickly marching at us as it crossed over Lake Kachess. My first thought by the dark threatening clouds was the risk for lightning and thunder. We stayed on the summit for only a minute of two more and took some pictures than quickly ran down the mountain back to the gap where we intersected the trail. Surprisingly we made it down off the summit area before any major precipitation arrived.

Thorp and storms
Thorp Mountain as storms arrive
From the summit looking down
From the summit looking down east

We decided to wait out the storm down below in the gap between Hard Knox and another highpoint called Hard Cheese. It did rain a little and mix with snow at times but luckily this storm like the showers earlier in the day had more bark than bite. We talked a bit about doing more in the region but with the iffy weather we stopped where we were at and decided to head back.

Heading back as the storm cleared


French Cabin Peak in evening light.
French Cabin Peak in evening light.

My fear was that it was going to be storming rather hard and we were going to hit that somewhat iffy section of trail during the wettest or snowiest part of the storm. Luckily it did not rain much and our trip back was very uneventful even in that small iffy section. Once we got on top of "Easy Knox" we sat down again to enjoy the good views that it had. It was at this time I noticed that a lot of the fall red colors really came out. Along with the beautiful fall colors came the back the warm sunshine. It felt like I was going through three seasons on this trip and the weather itself reminded more of November than early September. Through the clouds we did manage more shots of Mount Stuart to the east and of the dry semi-arid region of Washington of to the east. The rest of the trip down was very uneventful and we made it back to car in good time.


Full reds really starting to show up
Full reds really starting to show up



It was nice to get an early fall preview and cool of after such a rough summer. From what I saw on this mountain it is going to be a very colorful fall. I was glad to take a risk on the weather and luckily the weather held out enough for us to have a great day in the mountains. I am looking forward to a having a much better fall than what I had this summer.



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