Parking lot greets visitors to Mount Peak’s south side

Hikers now have access to a parking lot on the south side of Mount Peak instead of being forced to park at the side of the windy road. Photo by Kevin Hanson.

Trekking to the top of Mount Peak is difficult for most and parking provides a challenge of its own.

The popular promontory just south of Enumclaw attracts droves of visitors daily, with hikers leaving their vehicles along the shoulder of narrow rural roads. That has been particularly true on the less strenuous south side, where a wide gravel road heads uphill directly off Mud Mountain Road.

That perilous parking situation is a thing of the past, however, thanks to King County voters who agreed in 2013 to tax themselves in the name of outdoor opportunities.

King County Parks recently completed a parking lot just a short distance from the Mount Peak approach, providing space for single vehicles and trailers. Improvements also include restrooms and landscaping.

While most of the work is complete, a key element is planned but not yet under way. An access trail will be added, connecting the new parking lot to the existing trail network.

On a recent weekday, one car sat in the parking lot while a handful lined Mud Mountain Road. Trail visitors either did not realize the parking lot was for them, parked along the road out of habit or simply wanted to be closer to the trail access.

The parking area project carried a price tag of $1.2 million. It is primarily funded through a levy that garnered more than 70 percent support from county voters. It was estimated the levy would generate more than $400 million, all earmarked for maintaining or adding to the county’s inventory of parks, trails and open spaces.

A second Mount Peak project, to be completed this year, will see work crews improving sections of trail on the north side. Money from the voter-approved tax levy will fund that effort as well.

The more-traveled north side trail is named in honor of Cal Magnusson, a longtime Cascade mountaineer and Mount Peak aficionado who worked at REI for 25 years.

Mount Peak is the commonly-used name in Enumclaw, while King County uses Pinnacle Peak. By either name, the park of 300-plus acres offers an attractive challenge for first-time visitors and a core group of loyalists. One of the most popular climbs in the southern end of the county, the forested Magnussen Trail presents an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet. On the south, the initial park of the climb uses a gravel road.

Now used strictly for recreation, Mount Peak has a colorful history. For decades, a tower sitting at the top of the peak was staffed by a crew watching for forest fires. Clearly visible from both Enumclaw and Buckley, it was last used during the summer of 1964. Citing safety concerns, the state’s Department of Natural Resources took down the structure in 1966.

On a more ominous note, citizen volunteers made their way to a nearby post during World War II, scanning the skies for enemy aircraft.