Mount Townsend is almost ideally situated on the Northeast corner of the Olympic Mountains. It technically lies within the Buckhorn Wilderness, to the east of the Olympic National Park, standing at a respectable 6250’. Due to its location, on a clear day one can see the San Juans, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and if it’s that rare, crisp winter day, even Mt St Helens. Be careful though, the drawback to its location is that it catches all of the wind whipping around the northern edge of the Olympics and even on a relatively calm day can get substantial gusts.
Consider parking at the lower trailhead so that you can walk through some old growth timber and past Sink Lake. The lower elevations of the trek have a wide, easy to follow trail wending through thick fir and hemlock woods along Townsend Creek. Eventually, there is a ribbon waterfall and some more open alpine ground to walk through before reaching a saddle and fork in the trail. Here, the vegetation has thinned to some mountain heather and juniper. The downward fork leads to Silver Lake and is worth a stop after a visit to the summit if you have some extra time and energy.
At this stage you are only about half a mile from the summit and the amazing views mentioned above. One of my favorite landmarks on the way up is a rock that reminds me of the Old Man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch, NH before it collapsed. As I said the views are beautiful, but the wind is not always conducive to lingering at the summit for a bite to eat or jotting down notes in your trail log. Still, definitely worth the climb which, although it is almost 4000’ of elevation gain, it is spread out over 4+ miles and achievable for even inexperienced hikers.
Take Penny Creek Rd off of Highway 101 and follow the signs to the Mount Townsend trail head. Remember to park at the lower trailhead if you have the time.
Mt Townsend, Olympic NP, WA