Dirty Harry's Peak

Late September and time for the first headlamp hike of the season. The choice was Dirty Harry's Peak. My first visit was in spring 1986. My brother was training for Mt. Kilimanjaro and I was looking for steep trails for him. All I had was a write up in the Footsore guide book. We followed the directions to walk along the side of I-90 to cross the river then bushwhack to the trailhead. On the way back we found the road now crossed the river and went right back to the car. The route was an open logging road climb through a nearly unending clear cut. I posed on the running board of an abandoned logging truck. It was completely out in the open. We summited to find a foot of snow. We expected nobody and we saw nobody.

I did not come back for 20 years. In 2006 I joined Bob and Kolleen on a winter trip. Snow began only 400 vertical feet up the trail. With deepening soft snow we took 4:15 to reach the summit. A grueling steep climb up a rocky road. Now there were trees almost all the way up. I did not recognize much of the route. We never saw the truck. The pattern was set. Dirty Harry's became a close in winter trip when avalanche danger or time precluded a more interesting snowshoe trip in the mountains. In 2007 Suzanne and I did another winter trip, this time in February. We had snow at the start. It rained  most of the day. There was a lot of snow on the route and plastering the branches hanging low over the road/trail. About a mile below the top we gave up and turned around when we could barely break trail in the deep snow. We were completely soaked. A typical Dirty Harry Day.

Clearly I did not learn from experience and on 1-06-08 we made another winter attempt. We had falling snow at Suzanne's home on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. More at the trailhead. It was snowing hard as we set out. The snow became much deeper as we climbed the road/trail. This time we had six people in snowshoes trading off the lead. With a good sized group we made pretty good time. We reached the top in 3:15. It was 25 degrees. The slog down was much faster with a packed trench in place. Another typical Dirty Harry Day. On 12-17-11 I made my last visit.  The day began overcast but id cleared up later on. The snow grew deeper high up but it was consolidated. I was able to walk without sinking in much. Under those conditions I summited in 2:40. Coming down was good on snow but the bare road was mostly on very rocky road. Just as slippery and painful as ever. I had read about the truck in a few trip reports and I thought I had an idea where it was. I took a detour coming down and found the truck after 25 years. It was no longer in the open It was encased in forest. So much had changed. After that good trip I stayed away from Dirty Harry's Peak for seven years.

Fast forward to the present. The first half of the route had been decommissioned and a new trail built up to Dirty Harry's Balcony. It met the old route and continued to the summit. The new trail was a longer less steep version of an old boot path called the Bird House Trail. Gary discovered it in 2001. I had never hiked it. The new trail is almost finished and will be opening in a month or so. As usual I headed out of town earlier than the others as leaving too late means a very long and slow drive. I arrived at the trailhead off I-90 exit 38 at 3:45 pm By 3:54 pm I was on the trail. Instead of walking the road I took a newer short path to the bridge over the SF Snoqualmie River. Folks were jumping off the bridge into the river. The new trail is well signed and starts just across the bridge. There were no signs stating it is not yet open.

The new Dirty Harry's Peak Trail (DHPT) is well graded and well signed. The old road/trail had a signed short side trail to Dirty Harry's Balcony. I had never hiked it. There are several side trails to climbing sites. I saw two climbers on a big rock just off the trail. I then saw two hikers coming down. That was it for the entire trip. Those four people were more than I had ever seen on a trip up Dirty Harry's Peak. It was a warm day and I was feeling it on the steep climb. There were three spots where a very short trail led to views up the NF Snoqualmie River Valley. Each higher one had a little better view. At 2.1 miles I reached the junction with the trail to the highest Dirty Harry's Balcony. Again, each trail was well signed. My route began a near level traverse over to the old road/trail route to the summit.

It was obvious when I was on the old road/trail. It is still very rocky. The road was decommissioned. All the culverts were pulled out. A path winds back and forth across the old road. It is slightly less rocky than the rest of the road. Museum Creek was still running. An easy crossing on a couple small logs. The route is almost as rocky as it always was but it is no linger narrowed by encroaching trees. They have been cut out, at least for now. I felt a bit better higher up and maintained a steady pace. I figured I had about a 20 head start on Gary, John, and David. As I ascended the route grew steeper. It's hard to believe logging trucks once drove this road. Just walking up it was tough enough. I recognized where Suzanne and I turned around in 2007.

The map at the bottom shows the route crossing onto private property at the 3.7 mile mark. That was not too far from the top. The last part seemed to go on forever. I finally reached the top right at 6:00 pm. After a slow start I managed to hike up in 2:04. Gary's GPS track showed the route is now just over 4 miles one way. It is roughly the same distance and elevation gain as Mt. Si but the rough trail makes it seem much more difficult. The others arrived at 6:17 pm. Sunset was at 6:58 pm. We would definitely be coming down in the dark. The summit is forested. We had partial views down to Lower Granite Lake and across towards Revolution Peak. By 6:32 we were packed and on our way down. I wanted to get down the steepest part in daylight. We set a good pace though the rough and steep descent was not as fast as we would have done a few decades earlier with less worn knees.

We crossed the creek with a little light left and made it almost to the point where the old now closed road went straight down to the old trailhead. We put on headlamps here. A few minutes later we were back at the upper balcony junction. Then it was just a few miles of new trail down. There are quite a few rock steps that felt especially hard on our knees after the road descent up above. We reached our cars at 8:48 pm. This was the first time I had hiked the upper mountain without snow. The new route is less rocky than the old lower road/trail. The upper road is less brushy but still pretty rocky. It is amazing how much forest has grown up since I hiked a mostly clear cut route 32 1/2 years ago. Dirty Harry's Peak is still a knee buster trip but it is better. I'm sure I'll be back on a snowy or rainy winter day.

Trail Map
Trail Sign
McClellan Butte
Middle Balcony
View West
Summit In Sight
My Last Balcony
Rocky Trail
Grassy Rocky Trail
Fall Color
Boulder Field
More Boulder Field
Summit Area
Lower Granite Lake
Evening Shadow
Big Mushroom
Junction At Dark
Headlamp Hikers
Jim In 1986
Truck in 1986
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018