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South Tiger Mountain Loop

Issaquah Alps

Location

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain
View map below

Length

8.6 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1550 ft.
Highest Point: 2028 ft.

Rating

2.80 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

From the trailhead, follow the TMT along the grade of the former Woods and Iverson railroad, built in the early days of logging to haul timber from the Tigers to a mill in Hobart. It's a quieter walk today, although you may hear some traffic sounds from nearby Highway 18. In early spring, some of the first trilliums to bloom in the Tigers will be found along this part of the trail.

Your hike follows trails shared with trail riders (equestrians) and, at 1.1 miles, a sign directs riders to turn onto the "Horse Bypass" while your trail continues straight ahead. In another 0.2 mile, your trail narrows and traverses the steep hillside of Carkin's Cliff - the reason horses take a different route. Beyond the traverse, arrive at the sign identifying Hobart Gap, where the foot and horse trails rejoin.

Continue east on the ongoing trail and, in 0.8 miles, reach a powerline. Head northeast under the powerline (the route is shared by the TMT and the South Tiger Powerline Trail.) In about 200 yards, turn left at the sign where the TMT leaves the powerline.

Stay with the TMT as it traverses 1.1 miles around the east side of South Tiger Mountain. Along the way you will begin to hear the sounds of Holder Creek below. The trail widens and is joined from the left by the South Tiger Traverse.This may be shown on your map as a trail, but that part of the Traverse served briefly as a logging road a few years ago, so it looks more like an old forest road.

Turn sharply left onto the South Tiger Traverse (road) and follow it uphill. As it begins to level off there is an apparent fork in the trail, with the former logging road heading left and another wide path heading right. An unhelpful sign proclaiming "South Tiger Traverse" is posted in the middle of the fork, with no indication which branch is preferred.

Take the fork to the right of the sign and, when the trail levels out completely, look for a signpost on the left. (As of Jan 2015, the sign is missing.) The former sign indicated a trail to the right that climbs a small knoll to reach the Carole Hapke Lunch Area. The actual Traverse heads south on the left, behind the now-unsigned post.

You can check out the Hapke Lunch Area if you like, but it's mostly favored by equestrians. A short, rough trail climbs about 100 feet to the top of a small knoll where there is a hitching bar for horses and a fire pit. A few years ago the knoll offered a view of Middle and East Tiger Mountains. But small trees have grown vigorously. Later, the view still was available to anyone who scrambled up a tall stump. But the trees have outgrown even that height, and today there is no view at all.

Your ongoing trail, the South Tiger Traverse, continues on south behind the signpost. It passes through an area that was logged a few years ago. An occasional tree was left standing, and today there is a vigorous growth of small trees, brush and fireweed that is much easier on the eyes than the scene immediately following logging.

The route exits the cut-over area and enters the forest. In about 300 yards, be alert for a large stump on the left, a remnant from logging a century ago. Two cut marks near the top suggest eyes, and helpful hikers have scratched in a mouth below to complete the face, but continuing decay may obliterate the "smile" in a few years.

At the north side of the stump take the unsigned, but venerable trail that climbs a quarter mile up to the south summit of South Tiger Mountain, gaining about 250 feet. At worst you may have to step over or duck under an occasional blowdown, and soon you will be on top. The summit is forested, and there is no view. A USGS survey marker is located within a ring of stones, and the official elevation is 2028 feet.

True mountain climbers would smile at the thought of calling it a "summit," but a few years ago South Tiger Mountain actually offered a summit register for climbers to add their names to document their achievement. The register, unfortunately, has been gone for a while now, but you could write a trip report and include a selfie!

To continue, descend back to the South Tiger Traverse the way you came, or see Extending Your Hike for an optional visit to the north summit.

Either way, end up back on the South Tiger Traverse. Continue on south and eventually come to the powerline. Cross directly under the powerline, pass by a generator, and find yourself on another forest road.

Take the road downhill, curve around to the right, and come to another trail. Not familiar? Turn sharply left, walk a few feet, and you will be back at Hobart Gap.

From the Gap, take the TMT back across Carkin's Cliff, and continue on to the trailhead.

Extending Your Hike

North Summit of South Tiger Mountain
From the south summit, peer through the trees to the north and you can make out the contours of the north summit about a quarter mile away. It may be a few feet higher than the south summit and, because it was logged a few years ago, it offers the views you are denied on the south summit.

Going to the north summit is optional because the first part of the route is quite rudimentary (as of summer 2014.) If you opt to try it, look for a faint path leaving the south summit and heading through the trees toward the north summit. When the path leaves the trees and enters the logged-over area, the next 100 feet or so may be overgrown and somewhat prickly. But persevere, and you soon will come to a good trail. (The trail is not shown on your map, but it's a continuation of the logging road that takes the left fork from that ambiguous sign.) Turn right on that trail and follow it all the way to the north summit. Like the Hapke Lunch Area, the north summit is visited by equestrians and offers hitching anchors for horses, and a fire pit.

From the summit, enjoy the view toward the north. East Tiger Mountain is the one with the towers, and is the highest point in the Tigers, at 3004 feet. To the left of East Tiger you can see the rounded, still-forested dome of Middle Tiger Mountain standing at 2607 feet. The high point to the right of East Tiger is known in trip reports as Sally's Summit, although that name has not yet made it onto the topo map. Sally's Summit is at 2786 feet; the third highest point in the Tigers, after East Tiger and West Tiger #1 at 2948 feet. If you have not been to these other Tiger high points they are possibilities for future hikes.

Your best option now may be to return to the South Tiger Traverse the way you have come, first going back to the south summit, then taking the trail back down to the Traverse.

 

South Tiger Mountain Loop

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.4432, -121.9762 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Issaquah Alps -- Tiger Mountain

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

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Getting There

From I-90 in Issaquah, take Exit 17 (Front Street) and head south on Front Street through the town. At the south end of town, Front Street changes names to Issaquah-Hobart Road. At 8.5 miles from I-90, just before the Highway 18 overpass, turn left onto Tiger Mountain Road SE. Proceed 0.2 miles and look for places to park along the left shoulder of the road. There is no official trailhead parking so that's your only option.

You may find it easier to continue on 0.15 miles to SE 175th Place, make a U-turn, and come back to park on the shoulder. The shoulder is highway right-of-way, and you do not have to display a Discover Pass to park there. There are no facilities. Your hike begins on the TMT, a few feet south of the sign that reads "School Bus Stop Ahead."

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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South Tiger Mountain Loop

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