Tesseract Canyon

A narrow and committing intermediate-level box canyon and gorge that empties into the Taylor River. The route begins with a 300-foot waterfall that drops into a narrow box canyon. Below the box canyon the creek opens up a bit, and becomes a scenic descent through a series of waterfalls. Early season, June and July, is the best time to go.

Getting There

From I-90, take exit 34 for 468th Ave SE. Turn left onto 468th Ave SE, then in about 0.6 mi, turn right on the Middle Fork Road. Continue past the Middle Fork Campground, cross the Taylor River, and park. It's recommended to first carry on to the end of the road, where a  small parking area is available at the gate to the bridge/old road that is the Taylor River Trailhead. If this area is full, park a few hundred yards back down the road at the main parking area. A pit toilet is available at the main parking area. 

Approach

From the Taylor River trailhead, take a faint fisherman's track just past the gate on the right. Travel along the riverbank until crossing the Tesseract drainage. The fisherman's track disappears in a short distance and some bushwhacking is required. Once the fisherman's trail ends, descend close to the river as soon as it's reasonable to do so. Travel is much easier closer to the river. Alternatively, when the Taylor River is low (usually late July through the end of summer), cross the bridge, walk about 500 yards down the trail, and then cross the river.

Cross the Tesseract creekbed. Heading up the hill on the north bank, the understory is generally open, with occasional thick patches of Salal and Vine Maple. The approach gains ~1,200 feet of elevation; certain sections are quite steep. Avoid getting too close the edge of the canyon on the hike up to avoid getting cliffed out. The brush is noticeably thicker towards the top of the approach.

At ~2,250 ft reach the base of a large cliff band. Traverse the bottom of the cliff band towards the canyon. Scramble up onto a broad rocky platform at the top of the falls for direct access to Tesseract Canyon.

Descent

The canyon begins with a multi-pitch rappel into the heart of the canyon. This particular section of canyon is prone to rockfall as well as avalanches in the winter months. Existing anchors may be damaged, and natural anchor options here are very limited to non-existent. The middle section of the canyon is choked with loose boulders and  log debris. Most can be bypassed but there are some nuisance rappels.

  • Rappel 1: 185 feet DCL (Down Canyon Left) to a narrow ledge DCL. At the bottom of R1, transition and rig a 25' traverse line to the anchor for R2. 
  • Rappel 2: 150 feet  DCL. Be aware that the rock here is very sharp. Abrasion minimization techniques are a must. This rappel will take you into the heart of the canyon.
  • Rappel 3: 150 feet either DCR (Down Canyon Right) or DCL into a narrow channel. The anchor on canyon right is more easily accessible and avoids the flow better than the anchor on canyon left. Much of this rappel is free hanging.
  • Rappel 4: 40 feet DCL
  • Rappel 5: 40 feet DCL.
  • The creek funnels through a narrow section between Rappel 5 and Rappel 6, but there are no anchors. It is possible to climb up and around this obstacle on CL.
  • Rappel 6: 60 feet DCL
  • Rappel 7: 45 feet  DCL
  • Rappel 8: 130 feet DCR
  • Rappel 9: 35 feet  DCR
  • Rappel 10: 50 feet DCR
  • Rappel 11: 30 feet DCL. It is possible to downclimb this drop on both sides of the watercourse.

Exit

A short, 10-15 minute creek walk follows the final rappel, leads to the confluence with the Taylor River. Retrace the approach route, either along the riverside or crossing the river at lower flow.

Equipment

Standard canyoning gear including replacement webbing and quick links. Given the initial multipitch sequence, bring at least two 200-foot ropes, and two 150-foot ropes.

Trip Profile

  • Rappels: 11-12
  • Longest Rappel: 185 feet
  • Approach: ~1.5 mile
  • Exit: ~0.5 mile
  • Time: 6-10 hours total

Notes

  • Water flow in this canyon generally runs low due to its small catchment size.
  • While this canyon has quite a bit of high ground, there are very few escape routes, and rescue would be highly technical and very difficult. Treat this canyon with the respect it deserves.
  • Avoid this canyon when avalanche danger is high, usually in mid-spring when avalanche debris have been observed down to 1,800 ft, the core of the narrow box section. Snow in the narrows could also be a potential obstacle.
  • The rock in this canyon is very sharp. Abrasion minimization techniques are a must. Bring enough rope to rig the first two pitches simultaneously, in case a rope becomes stuck or damaged.
  • The upper section of canyon is prone to rockfall as well as avalanches in the winter months. Existing anchors may be damaged.
  • The first rappel sequence in this canyon is quite technical. Groups should have good rope management skills, and know how to rig a retrievable traverse line.
  • The middle section of the canyon is choked with loose boulders and  log debris. Most can be bypassed but there are some nuisance rappels.

Information for Leaders

PermitS

As of 2017, the Snoqualmie Ranger District considers Mountaineers trips and courses to be "nominal use". Leaders should print and copy this designation letter to show rangers they may see on trail or carry a digital copy on their phone.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate Canyon
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft
Map
  • Green Trails Middle Fork Snoqualmie No. 174S
Activities

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