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Mount Ellinor trail is a Northwest classic that any avid hiker or mountaineer must take on one day. The mountain itself is nothing remarkable. But, the descent is to die for. Anyone taking on this peak must know that there are two different trailheads. Season and conditions will dictate which one you need to use.
This time I made it to the upper trailhead. The last time I came in May there was too much snow and I started from the lower trailhead. I have now done this peak twice would say that going when the winter trail for Mount Ellinor is open is superior. The crowd will be bigger but Glissading back down is the best part of walking to the top.
The upper Mount Ellinor trail starts from humble beginnings winding through the woods. It seems steeper than the lower trail at first. I assume this is because it has less time before it meets the ridge. It is too early in the season right now to use the Glissade chute for the route up or down, so I had to use the summer route.
Once you exit the woods is where the views become worth the climbing. On a good day from mount Ellinor trail you can see all the way out over the Puget Sound to Mount Rainier. The views only improve until you reach the Summit where you can see all the Olympics.
The biggest difference between summer and winter is going to be the last mile or so. During summer there is a well-cut way all the way to the top. But, during the winter the trail will go straight up through the glissading chute. It then follows the west ridge across to the summit.
If you have the opportunity to go in winter, do it. While the view is great all the time, the glissade on the way back down is unforgettable in the wintertime. Plodding back down on foot didn’t have the same flare.
This was my first attempt at Mount Ellinor Trail. I had heard of the glissade and needed some new scenery after my divorce finished up. To start the trail early I chose to leave my home at 8 pm. Make the 4-hour drive to the trailhead and sleep there. That way I could start at first light and have ideal glissading conditions on the way down.
Almost at the lower trailhead, the coolant light on my dash lit up. I pulled over and with my engine smoking debated what to do. Since it was already near midnight I decided to wait it out for the evening and coast back downhill in the morning for some coolant.
I made it back to town as the small shell station was opening up. Got some coolant and was back at the trailhead by 8 am.
I arrived at the Lower Trailhead for Mount Ellinor to find it already filled with people. Even in busy parts of the North Cascades parking lots are never filled this early in the morning. Part of the problem was the road to the upper trailhead. was still covered in about a foot and half of snow.
I had planned to use the lower trailhead anyway so I grabbed one of the last few parking spots and got going. Mount Ellinor Trail is much like those on Interstate 90. Steep and sustained climbing up wooded hillsides. Until you get to the glissade chute there are no views to speak of.
The glissade shoot looks way steeper from below then it feels coming down. So if you are standing below wondering who would slide down it, have no fear. It is a steep but easy 2 miles from when you leave the trees The summit was a sight but I have had far better.
The real attraction along Mount Ellinor Trail is the glissading route back down. What takes 2-3 hours to get up takes only 10 minutes to get back down. You can see the Glissade route at the link.