West Tiger 3 in Tiger Mountain State Forest
Hike description: The calendar says spring is here even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
As things get a little warmer — but not much drier — hikers are eager to start strengthening their legs and lungs for the coming hiking season. And West Tiger Mountain is a good place to get in an early season workout.
The trail to West Tiger 3 climbs 2,000 feet over the first 2.8 miles and has plenty of options for tacking on extra miles and a few other low peaks.
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At 2,522 feet above sea level, West Tiger 3 is manageable all year. This and its proximity to Seattle and the South Sound are reasons this trail is quite popular. Arrive early if you want to have a shot at a parking space on the weekend.
While the trail has less snow in early spring than other popular hikes along Interstate 90, it sometimes does have enough snow to make trekking poles and microspikes a good idea. On a recent visit, I left both at home and took a spill, much to the delight of my microspike-wearing hiking partner.
After a short flat section, the wide trail — a former logging road — climbs through the trees. Take note to stay on the well-signed trail as the route intersects with several others. The best view comes shortly before arriving at the top of West Tiger 3. The view at the top is mostly obscured by trees other than a sliver of scenery that includes Lake Sammamish.
From here you can return the way you came, keep hiking farther into Tiger Mountain State Forest or find an alternative way down. The options are numerous, so a good map is a must.
The forest is popular with trail runners, and you’re likely to see plenty of these athletes on spring weekends. If you are looking for a more challenging way to reach the top of West Tiger 3, consider the Cable Line Trail. This direct trip doesn’t mess around with switchbacks and makes the climb in 1.5 miles.
Directions: From Interstate 90, take Exit 20 and turn south on 270th Street. Turn right on 79th Street and follow the road parallel to I-90 to the parking lot at the end of the trail. If you don’t have a pass, you can park along the road before entering the state forest.
Difficulty rating: 3-4 depending on conditions (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 5.6.
Elevation gain: 2,000 feet.
Best time of the year: Year-round but expect snow in colder months.
Map: Green Trails 204S: Tiger Mountain.
Pass: Discover Pass to use the designated parking lot.
Also: The gate to the parking lot closes at night. A restroom is located at the trailhead. Signs warn hikers to be aware of wildlife. Trails can be busy and visitors are reminded that it is polite to yield to uphill hikers. Dogs on leashes are permitted but owners must clean up after their pets. There are several geocaches hidden in the area, according to geocaching.com.