Swauk Forest Discovery Trail—Golden forest beneath the Diamond Head

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Discover the beauty of larches in autumn along this trail

Quick Facts:

Location: Blewett Pass

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Green Trails Map: Wenatchee/ Mission Ridge, WA- No 211S

Contact: Cle Elum Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest 

Access: From Cle Elum follow WA 970 east for 7.0 miles to US 97. Continue north on US 97 for 14.0 miles to Blewett Pass. Turn right onto FR 9716 and proceed .4 mile to trailhead.

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Delightful to hike any season, in autumn the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is golden thanks to its abundance of western larches. But there are other trees lining this family friendly loop trail, too. And you can learn all about them and the practice of silviculture (forest management) at numerous interpretive signs along the way.

Despite being located just off of Blewett Pass on busy US 97, this well developed trail is lightly visited (and unfortunately sees 095little maintenance-so expect some blowdowns). Constructed by the Northwest Youth Corp in 1992, the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail is meant to enlighten visitors on forest management practices and how they are implemented by the Forest Service. Pamphlets may be available at the trailhead kiosk for you to take along. And while you may not want to make 25 stops along the way to learn about forestry practices, do definitely stop at the tree identification plaques.

The trail contours a ridge above the highway meandering through patches of forest in varying age categories. At about .6 mile enjoy a nice view west to Teanaway Ridge. Then traverse a sunny slope of ponderosa pines. Gradually climb, round a ridge and head east watching for deer along the way and enjoying excellent views out to Diamond Head. In autumn larches set this locally prominent peak aglow.

At 1.4 miles reach a junction. Turn left to shorten your trip or continue right for the best part. Cross FR 9717 and wind your way up to a 4,550-foot knoll with excellent views north to Tronsen Ridge, west to Mount Stuart and the Enchantment Range and south all the way to Mount Rainier. Now close the loop by meandering through impressive ponderosa pine groves returning to the trailhead in 2.8 miles. Consider a return trip in winter with your snowshoes.

For more information on this hike and 124 others nearby;

Check out my Central Cascades Day Hiking book!

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