Tackle Beautiful McClellan Butte
Washington › North Bend WA
Added by Jeff Richards
- Distance: 9 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,700 ft.
- Great workout hike and preparation for harder peaks
- Beautiful view of North Bend and surrounding area and peaks
- Scramble at the end for extra adrenaline rush and better views
- Unobstructed 360 degree views from true summit
Starting at the McClellan's Butte Trailhead, right off of I-90 exit 47, head out on the main (only) trail at the trailhad. The first half mile of the trail is quite easy as it meanders through the forest, but don't be fooled or worried, it will get harder. This first half mile has a crossing of a forest road. You can either cross it and go up what is marked as the John Wayne Trail, or follow the road to meet up with the McClellan's Butte Trail. If you cross the road, as we did, and go up the John Wayne Trail, you will only be on it for a few hundred yards before you encounter another road. On this road follow the sign pointing to the left. You will walk on the flat, wide, road for about half a mile before coming across a sign marking the McClellan Butte Trail again.
Once back on the McClellan Butte Trail, start heading up. This part is much steeper than the first part, but still nothing overwhelming or too difficult. This section of trail will again cross a forest road, however this time you simply cross the road to the obvious trail at the other side. It is here that the trail starts getting harder. After hiking through the first a bit you will come across a clearing with great views of I-90 heading east. This is a good spot to take a break and grab water. Keep in mind that at this point, you have not yet reached the halfway.
After this clearing, follow the trail up and back into the forest. From now on, expect the trail to be hard and to only get harder for the majority of the hike. There are switchbacks to help ease the grade, but after a while they will become fewer and further between. The trail is quite steep and should give your muscles a nice burn, but every once in a while it will open up to views of the peaks to the east, allowing time to stop, catch your breath, and focus on the climbing ahead. If you do this hike during the winter/early spring, the upper end of the climb will have patches of snow on it, making the already steep trail a little more difficult. Simply be careful or use trekking poles/micro spikes and you will be fine.
After heading what feels like straight up for what feels like forever, you will round a corner to be on the south side of the mountain. Here, the trail grade lessens a bit, and on a clear day Mount Rainier should be easily visible. After heading up on the south side for less than half a mile, round another corner to be on the northwest side of the mountain.
Here the trail basically flattens out as you walk nearly all the way around the mountain. Although it is flat, in winter and early spring, again, there will be snow the entire way, so exercise caution. After the flat portion ends, there will be three very steep, snow covered (winter/early spring) switchbacks. These are some of the more challenging switchbacks on the trail, especially with snow, but they indicate the end of the hike.
After conquering the switchbacks, you will find yourself on the summit, with great views to the south, east and west. This is a fine spot to stop, eat lunch, take pictures, and even turn around and head down if you choose. However, you'll immediately notice that you cannot see west at all due to a giant slab of rock protruding out of the mountain (see final picture). If you wish to see the true summit, as well as perfect 360 degree views, you'll need to scramble. The scramble up the rock is only about 150 feet, but can be daunting to look at. If you do decide to do it, know that it is much easier than it looks. There is only one clear route up the rock, and it has plenty of large, sturdy hand a foot holds. Near the top, it is almost like walking up steep stairs. After this scramble, follow a broken but obvious trail up to the summit. Once at the summit, marvel at the beautiful views of every mountain in the area, as well as views well past Seattle and Mount Rainier.
When it is time to head down, make sure you take the scramble slow and follow the same route as you took up. Again, it will be like walking down steep stairs for the majority of it, and anyone with confidence and a slight idea of what they are doing will be fine. Then just follow the trail back to the trailhead, making sure to be careful on the snowy and ice parts if there is still snow. Microspikes may be wanted for these parts, but are not needed.
- Plenty of water
- Food for lunch and snacks
- Sturdy shoes or boots
- Weather appropriate clothing
- Micro spikes
- Trekking poles
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ReviewsLeave a Review
Very, Very Steep & Insanely Gorgeous
I'm a 21 year old athletic college kid that loves challenging hikes and this was the steepest hike I've ever done. We started a little after 7 am when the sky was overcast and worked ourselves up into the cloud line. The trail is excellently kept but after an hour of moderate grade the hike becomes extremely steep. Right as we approached the butte we came above the clouds and the sheer cliffs all around the summit dropped off into pure white, it was insane. Scaling the butte itself was awesome; it's an immense slab of stone jutting up at a roughly 50 degree angle but is plenty jagged for easy foot and handholds. When we got to the top the clouds opened up just enough to get some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains while still feeling like you were above the clouds. This is definitely my favorite hike I've ever done - the clouds added an epic element to it but I'd also like to go back on a clear day to be able to enjoy the whole view.
Remember that scrambling up is easier than scrambling down. The first few moves of the scramble are not as exposed as the rest of the route. If you are unsure about proceeding up, take them, look around and decide if it's the right adventure for you.
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