Once a popular I-90 guidebook staple, Rooster Mountain trail is actually an unofficial trail up an old road bed. The Forest Service does not maintain it. Route-finding skills to tackle this overgrown, ghostly Cascades excursion. There are far easier and more rewarding peaks in the area, but if you are looking for a challenging trail off the beaten path, quite literally in this case, Rooster Mountain may be just the hike for you.
The old trailhead is no longer accessible by car as a result of a recent washout along the forest road. Instead, park in the lot for the Snoqualmie Lake Trail, which you will encounter just as you cross the bridge over the Taylor River, right before the turnoff for Dingford Creek (NF-110 road). The washout is not a major inconvenience as it will add only a meager 0.8 miles to your 14-mile roundtrip.
Skirt the washout barrier and begin your hike along the Snoqualmie Lake Trail. Wind along a pleasant low-grade stretch of the Taylor River for about a half mile and you will reach the remains of the old trailhead as you cross the river on a short footbridge. Continue on another 0.4 miles and encounter a fork in the trail. The Snoqualmie Trail continues northeast to Otter Falls, but Rooster Mountain hikers will turn left and follow the sign for the Quartz Creek Trail.
From this point on, the path will be in various states of neglect, overgrown and overtaken by thick vegetation and brush. The route has not been serviced in quite some time and many of the existing routes today are hand cut improvisations. With this in mind, continue west along the Quartz Creek Trail, a steady climb past scattered cedars that tower above the babbling Quartz Creek below. A mile and a half later you will reach your first switchback, a clearing that presents two unconvincing choices for hikers to choose from. Left is a false path, so veer right, hopping the small gravel mound and continue east.
You are hiking old logging roads for a majority of this trail and will begin to encounter large ditches where culverts have been ripped out to prevent erosion. Most of these obstacles will have lightly tread paths circumventing potential hazards, but a few require direct traverses through these large depressions.
A quarter mile later switchback to left, head west and you will encounter your third switchback after another 0.4 miles of travel. Once upon a time, the logging road continued on straight to the west, but now loop of the right, angling east. Use a series of switchbacks to climb 1,200 vertical feet over the next 1.5 miles until you reach the end of the defined trail (4.6 mile mark of your journey).
To your right, a faint path sectioned off by a pile of cut branches, lies the remains of the old trail, an even more overgrown, narrow pathway headed southeast, the bones of which still appear on most GPS routes. To the left, a hand cut trail starts you on a lengthy circuitous sweep toward the ridgeline of the mountain.
This route is marked by a few scattered cairns and pink ribbons tied to trees, but represents an extremely unpleasant bit of travel through the alder and brush that is more akin to hacking through the jungle. Both routes are extremely overgrown, difficult to navigate and end abruptly, abandoning hikers in thick swatches of vegetation. In winter, the snowfall may reveal clearer paths, but in the summer months bushwhacking and route finding are necessary to locate the boulder field to the northeast, which is the last obstacle to reaching the summit. It is not advised that hikers without GPS and route finding experience continue on past this split in the trail.
Those who do continue on, you must bushwhack upward off one of the two incomplete paths (the remains of the old trail to your right swivels east, putting you in slightly closer proximity to make your rendezvous with the talus slope above) to reach the boulder field, a long scree riddled stretch that can be located by the distant squeaks of its pika denizens. Upon reaching the field, you must complete an arduous scramble on a northeasterly trajectory to reach the ridge line of Rooster Mountain, posing as a false summit to the naked eye.
Continue east along the spine of the peak and topping out at 5,330 feet, you will reach the summit of Rooster Mountain (be aware that advanced scrambling experience is necessary to defeat the last few portions of the summit). Stand atop the summit, an apex few can claim to have reached, and enjoy your hard won views of Garfield Peak, Bessemer Mountain and the valley below, before finally descending, careful to retrace your route back to the trail below.