Mt. Walker – The Ultimate Challenge

Forest Service Map

mt walker cloud

mt walker map8 miles South of Quilcene, WA on Hwy 101, at the top of the pass between Quilcene and Brinnon, is the entrance to Mt. Walker. In winter a gate stops motorists from entering but there is ample room to park and continue on foot. At other times of the year the gate is open for motorists to drive 0.4 mile in to park near the start of the grueling 2 mile hiking trail to the North summit, or continue up the 4 mile unimproved road to parking areas for North and South summits. Each Spring my wife and I start getting our legs fit for hiking season in the higher mountains of Washington State by tackling Mt. Walker’s tough trail. It gains 2,000 vertical feet in 2 miles and is unrelenting for effort required uphill and a real leg burner downhill.

Mt. Walker is also my most severe training ground for running fitness and I use it for serious training prior to arduous running or other events.

I once tried to jog up the hiking trail, to total dismay of other hikers, only to be defeated after 10 minutes exertion. My lungs felt like they would burst and my heart was pounding so hard I thought it might jump out my throat. My over-extending goal was to ascend via the 2 mile trail as fast as I could and then run down the 4 mile road to see what the round trip time was. Unable to jog uphill anymore I continued hiking as fast as my legs, heart, lungs would allow and made it to the North summit in 32 minutes. Immediately I started jogging down the 4 mile road and was soon able to burst into a good run returning to the trail head in 30 minutes. So now I had a base of 62 minutes to work with.

 

I decided that jogging up the trail was too difficult, but up and down the road within my capabilities. Jogging down the trail is possible, but there are many steep switchbacks where speed control is difficult and unpleasant consequences abound! One of my trainees tried running down the trail, against my instructions, and paid the price with torn hamstring!!

 

Within my training programs I generally run up and down by road giving an 8 mile, 2000ft ascent / 2000ft descent and generally add on the near flat 1 mile round trip to South summit.

 

I have hiked the trail quickly and then run down the road onto Hwy 101 and downhill to Quilcene where my wife has collected me. This gives a 12 mile downhill run losing 2,700ft, a real quad burner.

 

Prior to the Orcas 25K my test piece was to run up and down Mt. Walker’s road, hike up the trail, run down the road with a goal of 3 hours. That was 14 miles, 4000ft ascent / 4000ft descent and I hit my goal to the minute.

looking north

north summit

North summit Mt. Walker                                View looking N from N summit Mt. Walker

mt walker road   mt walker road2

Mt. Walker dirt road                                                        Mt. Walker dirt road

south summit    rainier

South summit Mt. Walker                                 Mt. Rainier from South summit Mt. Walker