Anyone who has visited Mud Mountain Dam is familiar with this view from the observation platform. In a COViD world, the area is now off-limits, but the area’s Rim Trail, which begins just outside the park gates, is open for visitors. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Anyone who has visited Mud Mountain Dam is familiar with this view from the observation platform. In a COViD world, the area is now off-limits, but the area’s Rim Trail, which begins just outside the park gates, is open for visitors. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Mud Mountain Dam: Rim Trail remains popular, everything else closed for now

This is the sixth article in a series about local hikes.

This is the sixth in a series of articles about local trails, campgrounds, parks, etc. – simply about places to enjoy the outdoors without traveling too far. Ideally, this will encourage folks to get outside, get some exercise and forget that we have been cooped up for months.

The focus will be on destinations in our own back yard and all will be of the “day trip” variety. Previous weeks have featured outings like the Melmont Ghost Town Trail, Black Diamond Open Space, the Old Mine Trail, Flaming Geyser State Park; this week we’re headed to Mud Mountain.

The target audience is the novice or, at least, not a seasoned veteran of the woods. Nothing here will involve summiting Mount Rainier or spending days trekking the Wonderland Trail.

If you have a suggestion for a hiking/camping adventure, pass it along. Just email khanson@courierherald.com. Offer a brief description from your personal experience.

While there’s always a strong pull to head uphill for a long day of hiking, there’s occasionally a desire to stick closer to home and spend just a couple of hours on the trail.

That’s where Mud Mountain Dam can satisfy. Just a few miles up state Route 410 from Enumclaw, the area around the dam traditionally provides three options. But in a COVID-19 era, tradition often flies out the window. But more on that in a bit.

First, a quick history lesson about Mud Mountain Dam.

Aside from the trails, the grounds usually provide a family-friendly destination spot. It’s a place for picnics and there’s play areas for kids.

But the good times are secondary to the dam’s original and ongoing mission. An operation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the dam was built during the 1940s – interrupted by World War II and completed in ‘48 – as a way to prevent downstream flooding. Water is held behind the dam during times of heavy rain or rapid snowmelt, then slowly returned to the White River. It’s said the dam protects the homes and businesses of perhaps 400,000 people living near the White and Puyallup rivers.

The reservoir behind the dam is usually empty except for the normal river flow. When fully backed up, however, it can stretch five miles or more and cover 1,200 acres.

NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS

The Mud Mountain Dam recreation area is off-limits to the public, having closed in March due to the ongoing pandemic. That means no access to what is called the Vista Trail, which is accessed from an observation deck that (in more normal times) a head-on view of the dam.

Also off-limits is the River Trail. It was closed in August due to hazardous conditions and, despite some work being done, remains officially closed. Park personnel noted this week that the trail has become overgrown.

When in service, the River Trail leads directly from the Rim Trail and adds seven miles (round trip) to a day’s excursion.

THAT LEAVES JUST THE RIM TRAIL

This is a relatively easy four miles (round trip), following the path of the White River with minimal elevation gain. There are a couple of uphill climbs that get non-athletes huffing and puffing, but it’s not terrible. Along the way, hikers can look down at the river canyon while getting a feel for the geologic (volcanic) events that shaped the landscape.

The trailhead is just outside the Mud Mountain gate, so look for the lot on the left while approaching the entry.

Peak times can see the trail a bit crowded but timing is everything. On a Wednesday morning last week, there were just two cars in the lot and a two-hour hike meant crossing paths with just three others.

SOME THINGS TO KNOW

The Mud Mountain area is open year-round and requires no permit.

Dogs are permitted on trail but must be leashed. Horses and anything motorized is not allowed.

Convenience is a major selling point, as it’s a quick 10-minute uphill trip from downtown Enumclaw to the trailhead. Just head east on state Route 410 – the large sign indicating a right turn to Mud Mountain is hard to miss. After the turn, it’s about 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot and, when it’s open, the play area.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Sports

Screenshot
White River High taking nominations for Year 2 Hall of Fame inductees

Here’s what you need to know to nominate a sports legend from your time at WRHS.

In this file photo from March 2020, the Federal Way High School boys basketball team reacts in the final minutes of the state quarterfinals game against Mt. Si High School. File photo
New guidelines released for return of prep sports in WA

The new plan places counties and sports in three-tier systems. No signs of a quicker return to play.

Foothills Trail: a popular destination now, even more planned for future

This is the ninth in a series of articles about local hikes.

Green River Natural Area: some trails short and simple, others provide a test

This is the eighth in a series of articles about local hikes.

Nolte State Park: hike the trail, catch a fish or stretch out for a family picnic

This is the seventh in a series of articles about local hikes.

Mud Mountain Dam: Rim Trail remains popular, everything else closed for now

This is the sixth article in a series about local hikes.

Four more “free days” planned for state parks

The upcoming dates are Sept. 26, Oct. 10, Nov. 11, and Nov. 27.

Naches Peak Loop Trail: mountain lakes and stunning Rainier views

This is the fifth article in a series about local hikes.

Black Diamond Open Space: plenty of room for trail hikers, mountain bikers

This is the third in a series of articles about local hikes.