Mt. Townsend Trail Hike/Run – Olympic National Forest

This is one of the busiest and well known trails of the NE Olympic Peninsula due to its overall quality and decent, though now potholed blacktop, access road. The broad ridge of Mt. Townsend can be seen from downtown Port Townsend WA when looking South on a clear day.

Dark ridge of Mt. Townsend as seen from Port Townsend

Trail: Mt. Townsend – from Forest Road 2760

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars for scenery, 3 out of 5 for running.

Date: 5/30/2015

Distance: 9 miles total, 4.5 up, 4.5 down.

Trailhead: 3000 feet.

Highpoint: 6280 feet South Summit.

Elevation Gain: 3280 feet approx.

Trail Difficulty: Moderate.

Trail Notes: Excellent, mostly a fairly wide trail, especially in the forested zone giving way to more gravel-like conditions at elevation. Excellent views all round for the upper half of the trail. Need to take a sharp right turn about 1/4 mile above Camp Windy otherwise you’ll be heading for Silver Lakes! Some years the higher ground is still snow covered until June. Can be done as a through route to Little Quilcene Trail, 6.3 miles, or reversed if transport is available at both ends.

Pass/Parking: Northwest Forest Pass required.

Weather Conditions: Sunny clear blue skies, mid to upper 60’s F, light wind from the North.

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Trail Running Details: Lower elevations were socked in by dense marine layer cloud cover, but above 2500 ft bright blue skies ruled the day. The upwards trail is never too steep but it never relents either. It is steep enough to make jogging painful to impossible for me though. I prefer to hike up at a healthy pace. Average hikers take 2 to 2.5 hours to ascend and my norm is around 1h 40 mins. Today I managed 1h 30 mins probably spurred on by seeing 3 young guys running down the trail.

Once at the summit I cooled down facing the Northerly breeze, had lunch and snapped a couple of photos of cloud choked valleys and Puget Sound way below. In the distance Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker were clearly visible along the N. Cascade Mountain Range. Port Townsend and Admiralty inlet were visible to the North. The Straights of Juan De Fuca and Vancouver Island were visible to the West and lightly snow covered Olympic Mountain interior peaks were visible to the South.

Looking SE

Mt. Townsend summit looking SE

Looking NE

Mt. Townsend summit looking NE

I crossed the summit ridge into a wind shadow and lay down to soak up the sun while awaiting arrival of Ingrid. After Ingrid found me, had lunch and a short rest we set off down again. I ran she hike/jogged. I slipped several times on exceedingly dry small gravel but no damage done and had a good fast run down in 53 mins. I know that doesn’t sound fast for 4 miles but I was constantly checking my speed due to over 3000 ft of down slope and navigating numerous switchbacks, rocks and roots. I have jogged/run down this route on several previous occasions but never written them up. It was nice to see others running down the trail today.

Wild Life: Birds, Butterflies, Chipmunks, Squirrels and Spring flowers in abundance including Indian Paintbrush one of my favorites.

Hike/Run Time: 1hr 30 mins up, 53 mins down.

Running Gear: Breathable short sleeved tee-shirt, shorts, Duo Dry anklet socks, Montrail Mountain Marauder running shoes, phone/camera, Camelbak back pack.

Food and drink: 1 quart water, 1 peanut butter/jelly sandwich, 1 organic Mama Chia 3.5 oz Chia Squeeze vitality snack, 1 apple.

Trailhead: Take Penny Creek Road South of Quilcene on Hwy 101, follow the signs on Forest Road 27 for 16 miles and turn onto Forest Road 2760. Parking area in 0.9 miles.