Sunday, August 31, 2008

Return to Higley Peak

We returned to Higley Peak on August 25, 2008. If you recall, we had visited there at the end of June, but snow on the road blocked access by our car. We trudged on several miles in the snow, but never found the trail to the peak.

This time the snow was all gone and the road had been cleared of fallen trees, so we drove right on up. We stopped at a clearing where the road widens out and you have a view of a green valley to the north and a beautiful stand of moss-covered trees to the south dropping away down a steep hillside. This was the furthest point we reached on the June visit. And lo and behold! I found the trail at this point. It is found on the hill to the southwest. The entrance to the trail is overgrown. A sign marking the entrance has fallen down. A few tens of yards into the trail is another sign that identifies the trail for certain.

So we proceeded up the trail. The trail is narrow and almost disappears in a couple spots. Below you the hillside drops away very steeply. The trail climbs steadily and wraps perhaps 3/4 of the way around the peak - rather than switching back and forth. You pass a gigantic rock formation about mid way. As you wind around the mountain, you are bound to catch the side facing the sun, and this lights up the forest beautifully.

After half a mile, you reach the peak. There is a little clearing at the peak. Some posts and concrete blocks indicate that something was once constructed here, but it is gone now. Now, my interest in Higley Peak originated from the idea that we would get a view of Lake Quinault. The peak hovers over the middle of the lake's north shore. Unfortunately, some young trees have grown up and almost completely blocked the view. You just get a narrow glimpse through some branches.

Back down at the base of the trail, we drove another three miles up the road beyond the peak. At the 12.5 mile mark we were rewarded with a great view (pictured above). Here you can see the upper Quinault River emptying into the eastern end of the lake with the mountains of the Colonel Bob Wilderness looming over the scene. The road continues further, but we turned back at this point.

So here are the complete instructions for finding Higley Peak:
1. Turn onto Prairie Creek Road from Highway 101. This road is found about 1 mile west of where the highway bends to the west near the lake's North Shore Road. Prairie Creek Road is a dirt road, but well-maintained (in August, at least).
2. On the lower part of the road, you will encounter two forks in the road. Bear to the right at each of them. The first fork is unmarked. The second fork has a sign for Higley Peak. There is sort of a third fork, where the road straight ahead is very faint, but it is pretty clear that the main road veers to the left up the first switchback.
3. At the 9.5 mile mark, you have reached the peak. Before this point, a hillside on your right had been restricting your view in that direction. At the base of the trail, the road opens up into a clearing with views to either side. A very pretty stand of trees laden with moss are to be seen towards the lake side to the south. Up ahead the road drops away (for about the next mile). Once you have identified the spot, you can find the trailhead to your southwest, hidden by the undergrowth against the hillside. Once you pass that initial undergrowth, the trail is easy to follow.
4. Continue another 3 miles along the road to the 12.5 mile mark for the best view - a view of the eastern end of the lake and the river valley.

You can find my complete picture album here:

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