Recently this summer, I found just the place: Tonga Ridge, off U.S. 2.
Tonga Ridge is a lovely, gentle hike. I can't tell you what it's like on a weekend, but my friend Doug and I were lucky enough to go on a weekday. We saw no one. Not a single other hiker. It was gloriously serene.
The Tonga Ridge trail starts out high, at 4,400 feet, making it a nice hike if you're trying to escape a hot day. From the trailhead, the trail starts uphill, with no chance to warm up. About the time you're starting to gasp for real, the trail flattens, then gently rolls for several miles. The early part of the trail is shady and cool, but the view opens up before too long, offering lovely views of the surrounding peaks and forests. It also offers a lot of sun, so bring a hat.
The Tonga Ridge trail is a gentle hike, easy enough for kids. You can hike for as long or as short a time as you want. There's a handy turn-around about 3 miles in, with a nice spot to stop for lunch. Watch for the gray jays; they are charmingly brazen.
If you're still feeling energetic, you can continue to Fisher Lake. Finding the trail, though, is a bit of a hassle. Here's what you'll want to do: If you're hiking south along Tonga Ridge, about 3 miles in you will come to a more heavily traveled area, with some crisscrossing trails. Watch for a large, 4-way intersection. Follows this to the right. In a few minutes, you will come to a trail, and have to go either right or left. Go left. A few yards down the trail you will find a small, overgrown trail heading off to the right. When we made the trip, a bit of orange tape on a tree marked the overgrown trail, but such things tend to vanish.
Follow the small trail as it wends through the trees and a small open area. Then it climbs steeply up through a creek bed, which is dry this late in the season. The scramble is not for small kids, but it's not too difficult. It's even fun to scramble up the roots.
From this point on, follow the obvious trail. It will eventually lead you up and over a ridge and then drop down to the lake. According to trail reports online, there is a trail that winds around the ridge, saving you a climb. I didn't see it, however. If you are adventurous, you can explore. Just be careful and carry a map and compass.
Fisher Lake itself is a stunning little mountain lake. Doug found it perfect for a nice swim on such a warm day. While we were relaxing, a short rain shower passed over. The sound of the rain on the water was nothing short of magical. Kind of like finding such a stunning place with so little work.
Tonga Ridge trail
Follow U.S. 2 east. Just past the Skykomish Ranger Station, turn right on Foss River Road (U.S. Forest Service Road 68.) At a Y intersection, veer left onto Road 6830. Follow this until you come to Road 310 and turn left. Park at the trailhead at the end of the road. You need a Northwest Forest Pass to park.
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