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.
VIA THE GATED ROAD TRAILHEAD: Take the Kent-Kangley east from Covington. Stay on it past Route 169. Six miles beyond that intersection the road will hit a sign saying that the road will end in two miles. Just beyond that sign you will see a Blue DNR gate. Park there because that will be the trailhead.
No fees here!! However part of area on McDonald Mountain is in the Tacoma watershed so take note!!
I wouldn't recommend it here due to the fact that this mountain is an easy 14 mile hike. Part of the area is in the Tacoma watershed so be aware of the rules and the area before you camp there. Also there are cameras by the cell tower on the summit.
Map of the Route to McDonald Mountain
This map was created by Eric Noel and was used with written permission from Dean
External LinksWeather Conditions
Redwic - Sep 8, 2009 2:27 pm - Voted 10/10Major inconsistencies...
I do not believe you went to the true summit, or are describing it. From your current descriptions of the route, location, and summit view, the information suggests otherwise. The "highpoint" of McDonald Mountain (which is an unofficial name for this peak, by the way) is located at: 47.316779, -121.828702. In other words, near the center of the ridge... not near the northern end of the ridge as you indicate. You might want to check your topo map. In addition, the highest point of McDonald Mountain is 3570' elevation, not 3310' elevation as you indicate. I think that (3310') is actually the elevation of the northern false summit. Yet another reason I question if your currently described route actually leads to the true summit, and if you even made it. When going to the true summit of McDonald Mountain, it is much further with more cumulative elevation gain than what your page currently shows. When going to the true summit, the mileage is closer to 12 miles roundtrip and the cumulative elevation gain is closer to 3500' (including all ups and downs). This is clearly described on another page on SP. This page still needs work, for material concerning the true summit and how to reach it. An interesting side-note: McDonald Mountain is nicknamed "Big Mac" by some locals.
Klenke - Sep 8, 2009 3:28 pm - Hasn't votedRe: Major inconsistencies...
I agree with Redwic here. The 3570 pt is the highpoint. This is important because this mountain is a member of the 2k prominence club. The summit is best done by bike because it's a ways from the car.
EastKing - Sep 9, 2009 2:04 am - Hasn't votedRe: Major inconsistencies...
It is obvious I hit the false summit. I will be back to finish what I started soon. I have updated the page with the correct information.
Redwic - Sep 9, 2009 7:32 pm - Voted 10/10Re: Major inconsistencies...
No problem. I slightly revised my vote. I know you'll do the appropriate changes and adjustments.
EastKing - Oct 18, 2009 9:46 pm - Hasn't votedRe: Major inconsistencies...
I have made the true summit and am in the process of fixing up this page.
Redwic - Oct 19, 2009 1:17 am - Voted 10/10Good job!
After it was realized that the information for this mountain and its highpoint were incomplete, you were dedicated to finding time to go back, verify things yourself, and make the necessary adjustments to this page. Your diligence and persistence is something to be admired in this case, and I'm certain it does not go unnoticed.
fred_beavon - Sep 18, 2009 6:04 pm - Hasn't votedAnother point of interest
For those who like visiting the locations of former fire lookout towers, http://www.firelookout.com/wamtrr.html, the old McDonald Lookout Site, http://www.firelookout.com/wa/mcdonaldmtn.html, is located just a bit further northwest along the ridge at Point 3280+.