Southeast Slope of Mount Sawyer
Mount Sawyer is the central and most popular peak of Tonga Ridge, a mountain ridgeline along one of the northern borders of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington State. Tonga Ridge actually has three distinct highpoints, but the west and east peaks are unnamed and have little-to-no views from their summits. Conversely, Mount Sawyer has great views in each direction, from the summit and surrounding upper slopes of the mountain.
Tonga Ridge Trail #1058
The most established route to the summit of Mount Sawyer is via Tonga Ridge Trail #1058. Tonga Ridge Trail #1058 has a western trailhead (4300' elevation) and an eastern trailhead (3700' elevation). The western trailhead is the standard approach because the eastern trailhead takes longer to drive to, has longer hiking distance, has greater elevation gain, and is less used than the western areas of the trail. The biggest advantage starting from the eastern trailhead might be that the eastern side of Tonga Ridge Trail #1058 is closer to a spur trail leading towards Fisher Lake and Ptarmigan Lakes, if an extra adventure is desired.
From the western trailhead of Tonga Ridge Trail #1058, follow the trail for approximately 2.0 miles (or 2.6 miles, if hiking from the eastern trailhead of Tonga Ridge Trail #1058). An unmarked side-trail (4800') intersects with Tonga Ridge Trail #1058, initially steeply climbing up the southern slopes of Mount Sawyer. If heading east via the western Tonga Ridge Trailhead (standard approach), the Mount Sawyer Summit Trail appears soon after Tonga Ridge Trail #1058 passes a sub-alpine meadow on the leftside and then slightly climbs uphill.
Follow the Mount Sawyer Summit Trail as it switchbacks up the southern and southeastern slopes of Mount Sawyer. Huckleberries, wild blueberries, and heather surround most of the summit trail. As such, this is prime country for bears and cougars. Also, numerous species of birds, including jays and white-tailed ptarmigan, live on the mountain slopes. The summit is reached after hiking approximately 0.5 miles along the Mount Sawyer Summit Trail.
A View From Summit
Views can be seen in all directions from different areas at the top of Mount Sawyer. Views of Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, and Mount Baker can all be seen in the distance. The summit has multiple U.S. Geological Society round benchmarks embedded into rocks. A fire lookout camp was setup in 1921, but then abandoned by 1928. The mountain was named in honor of George Sawyer, who was a Skykomish District Ranger of the U.S. Forest Service until his death in 1930.
FROM SKYKOMISH, WA:
1) Drive east along Highway 2 from Skykomish, Washington turnoff.
2) After 1.8 miles, take a right turn onto Foss River Road.
3) After 1.2 miles, Foss River Road becomes a gravel road, Forest Road 68.
4) After 2.3 miles further, veer left onto Forest Road #6830. This is a one-lane gravel road.
DIRECTIONS FOR WEST TRAILHEAD (Standard Approach):
5) After 6.6 miles on Forest Road #6830, veer right onto Forest Road 310.
6) After 1.3 miles on Forest Road 310, arrive at the trailhead for Tonga Ridge Trail #1058, at the end of the road.
DIRECTIONS FOR EAST TRAILHEAD:
5) After 17.7 miles on Forest Road #6830, arrive at the trailhead for Tonga Ridge Trail #1058, on the right side of the road. The trailhead is directly across the road from Fisher Creek Trail (a.k.a. Deception Creek Cut-Off Trail) #1059.1.
NOTE: Forest Road #6830 ends at a bridge washout approximately 0.2 miles further. The trailhead only has a very small area for parking, enough for one or two vehicles. Due to the very limited space for parking and turning a vehicle around, it is recommended to first drive to the end of Forest Road #6830, turn the vehicle around, and either park there or along the side of the road near the trailhead (if space allows).
No essential gear is needed outside of "10 Essentials" and standard hiking gear/attire.
Reference Green Trails Maps #175 and #176 for route and topography information.
ALL visitors to the the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are required to have a Wilderness Permit from May 15 to October 31. Wilderness permits are free and can be obtained at parking trailheads and local ranger stations.*
If parking a vehicle in the region, the trailheads within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness require a Northwest Forest Pass. A single-day Northwest Forest Pass costs $5, while an annual Northwest Forest Pass costs $30. Northwest Forest Passes can be purchased from ranger stations or REI stores (if not also other outdoor recreation stores) within Washington State.
Camping is not permitted on or near Tonga Ridge Trail #1058, Mount Sawyer, or the other areas of Tonga Ridge.