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Mount Townsend

Olympic Peninsula


Olympic Peninsula -- Hood Canal
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8.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 3010 ft.
Highest Point: 6260 ft.


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WTA worked here: 2021

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Is Mount Townsend popular because there are four trails to the top? Or are there four trails to the top because Mount Townsend is so popular? Let’s just agree it's a popular hike and that there are many reasons for it.

Townsend offers rhododendrons in May and June, wildflowers in June through August, then berries in August and September and fall colors in, well, fall. Add in old growth, some tucked away waterfalls, and a windswept, alpine turtleback summit with views north across the Strait and San Juans, west and south into and along the Olympics and east across the Sound to the Cascades, and you've got the perfect year-round hike. No wonder it is popular.

The most loved of the routes up Townsend starts at what is commonly referred to as the ‘Upper Trailhead’. The ‘Lower Trailhead’ on this route starts 1.2 miles and 400 feet elevation farther down the valley. It can be a good access option when snow has closed higher elevation roads. The trail starts out accompanied by the crashing of Townsend Creek and soon switchbacks through old-growth with a thick understory of rhododendrons.

The track makes a long westward-rising traverse through fir and hemlock, interrupted by three ravines. These ravines get progressively more open both up and down their drainages, providing peek-a-boo views across the valley. Shortly after the trail breaks into a broad, sloped meadow, stop and listen. You may be able to pick out first the sounds and then sights of a couple small waterfalls. The more obvious one drains off of Townsend and the other off of the Welch Peaks to the southwest.

Switchbacks resume in this open area and take one from meadow to forest and back to meadow. The open views to the east offer better and better views across to the Cascades. Shortly before Camp Windy the trail crests an open rock face that brings most hikers to a brief halt to enjoy the views and the moment. At 2.6 miles down the trail, overnighters can enjoy Camp Windy as a nice camp spot. The water source, shallow Windy Lake, is a great reflecting pool for the surrounding trees and cliffs.

The switchbacks above Camp Windy bring you to the intersection with the Silver Lake Trail at 3.0 miles. Swing right to stay on route to Townsend. Soon you'll find yourself in open country punctuated by clumps of krummholz skirted subalpine fir.

Take your pick of any of the outcrops at the south summit of Townsend (four miles from the trailhead and at 6,260 feet of elevation and enjoy the views in all directions. Use the rocks for a windbreak during your well-earned rest and snack before heading back.

Wondering where the other three trails to Townsend are? Silver Lakes Trail approaches from the west, and is reached via the Silver Lakes Way Trail. The other two approach from the north: Little River Summit from the northeast and Dirty Face Ridge from the northwest. The trail up Dirty Face Ridge (shown on maps as the Little Quilcene Trail) shares a trailhead parking area with the Tubal Cain Trail on FR 2870.

WTA Pro Tip: For a fun loop hike, start on the Dirty Face Ridge Trail, summit Townsend and head south on the 839 trail until you meet the Silver Lakes Trail and take it over the pass and down into the Silver Lakes valley. Then turn north on the Silver Lakes Way Trail. This trail ends on the 2870 road that you follow back to your vehicle.


Mount Townsend

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 47.8564, -123.0359 Open map in new window


Olympic Peninsula -- Hood Canal

Mount Townsend (#839)

Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Custom Correct Buckhorn Wilderness

Little Quilcene Trail #835 Forest Service PDF Map:

Buy the Green Trails Tyler Peak No. 136 map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

Directions to the Upper Trailhead: Take US 101 south from the Quilcene Ranger Station 0.9 miles. Take the slight right onto the Penny Creek Road and drive through the grounds of the Penny Creek Quarry. In 1.5 miles, take the left fork onto Forest Road 27 and follow it 13.5 miles before turning left onto FR27-190. The trailhead is at the end of this spur road. Amenities include a vault toilet. Ignore the signs for Mount Townsend at 12.5 miles. This will lead you to the “Lower Trailhead”.

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Mount Townsend

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