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Trip Report    

CHS 1 Hike - Indian Bar-Cowlitz Divide

The season's first snow in the mountains slowed us down. Nonetheless the weather was great and so were the views!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Road: SR 410 reopened two days ago, and we saw remnants of the wildfires that covered the area in the earlier weeks. There was a small fire next to the highway but was cordoned off and monitored by a forest fire truck. Otherwise, the roads were clear and easy to the Box Canyon trailhead.

    Trail: The snowfall from a few days ago was greater than expected. Around the 4-mile mark of the trail (about 5,000 ft), we began encountering snow - and by the time we hit about 5,500 ft, the trail and surrounding areas were completely covered. With relatively warm temps (50s), the snow was soft/slushy so it was not necessary to have traction. As the afternoon wore on, the melting snow created streams of running water and puddles in the trail.


Our group of four left the South Renton Park & Ride at 6 AM and after a quick pitstop after the Stevens Canyon entrance, reached the trailhead just past 8 AM. We had boots on trail at 8:15 AM. The morning was crisp (mid-40s) and dry. We had a nice moderate pace but slowed down as the elevation gained and through the switchbacks to the Cowlitz Divide-Indian Bar junction.

About a mile after we took the junction towards Indian Bar, we started seeing patches of snow. The amount of snow increased as we ascended until we were walking on a fully snow-covered trail by about the 5,500 ft level. While a dusting was expected, a fully snow-covered trail was not.  The snow was soft and slushy - not making traction necessary - but traveling on the snow slowed our pace down even more. We stopped for lunch at trail's high point (5,900 ft) - about 1.25 mi from the Indian Bar shelter. High clouds obscured the upper half of Mt Rainier but the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains were fantastic.

We discussed the pros and cons of continuing on to the shelter. At this point, we had traveled 6.1 miles in 4:30. At the pace we were going, the extra mileage in the snow would have added an extra couple hours. Given that and the density of the incoming clouds, we concluded that we already achieved the best views of the day and called the trip a success. Once we got back to dry ground, the pace picked up a bit and we were able to get back to the trailhead in 3:30. We stopped and enjoyed the Box Canyon viewpoint before heading back to the car.

We enjoyed a nice happy hour meal at The Mint Bar & Grill in Enumclaw on the way home.

The small and mighty group of hikers was great. So was the cool fall weather: Calm, mostly sunny, mid-40s to high-50s, cooler once we were surrounding by snow.

Final stats: 12.75 mi; 3,360 t.e.g.; 7:57 including  lunch and Box Canyon stop.

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