Mt Townsend Hike: Epic Mountain Views

One of the best hikes on the Olympic Peninsula and certainly one of the best views, the Mt Townsend hike is challenging at 8 miles and just over 3000 feet of elevation gain. The trail climbs steadily but it’s so worth the more than 25 switchbacks as you climb first through a forest lined with rhodedendros (May and June), then along a hillside with increasingly amazing views from Mt Rainier to Mt Baker.

You’re surrounded by wildflowers throughout the summer and come out at the top to 360 degree views of the Olympic mountains as well as the Salish Sea, the Strait of San de Fuca, Vancouver Island as well as the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands.

The Mt Townsend trail is on the homeland of the Klallam people.

Parking Pass: None

Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Is Mt Townsend right for me?

This hike is challenging. It’s 3000 feet of elevation gain and 8 miles round trip are no joke. I find this trail “feels” easier than it is and I think it’s because of the variety of scenery and the amazing views along this trail as well as the consistent and steady level of climbing. That said, it requires being prepared with everything you need for a day hike making sure to have plenty of food and water to fuel you on this climb.

This is a hike for people who like epic views. Save this for a clear sunny summer day when you can spend some time at the summit soaking it in. This view is one of the best on the Olympic Peninsula and probably in the whole state.

The views start as you climb out of the forest and get better and better until you approach the summit. Now you can see in all directions! Impressive.

Mt Townsend is also a good hike for wildflower lovers, late June, July and August bringing an abundance of gorgeous flowers.

When is a good time for the Mt Townsend hike?

The most important thing in my opinion is to have clear weather so you can see the view!

This hike is snow free sometime in June. It remains snow free until the snow flies in the high country sometime in October or November.

In May and June this hike is surrounded by wild rhodedendrons (Washington’s state flower!) for the first mile and a half which makes it worth an early summer trip.

June, July and August have amazing wildflowers on the top part of the trail and around the summit.

September brings fall colors in the high country.

This is a very popular hike and you won’t find solitude here, but this is one that’s worth braving some other people. There is lots of space on the summit to spread out, too.

Where is it?

The Mt Townsend trailhead is located on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula along Hood Canal near the town of Quilcene.

To get there from Seattle or Tacoma, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island (Seattle and south) or Kingston (if you’re north of downtown Seattle). You can also take the Tacoma Narrows bridge. From the ferry or the bridge, head towards and cross the Hood Canal Bridge.

After crossing the bridge, continue for 11 miles and then take the exit for Center Road towards Quilcene. In about 8 miles, in the town of Quilcene, meet up with Highway 101 and head south for a mile and a half.

Turn right on Penny Creek Road. After about a mile and a half, take the left fork on Forest service road 27. After just over 13 miles, go left again on Forest service road 27-190, a spur road. The trailhead is at the end of the road.

Note: there is a sign lower down for Mt Townsend, this goes to the lower trailhead. Keep going all the way up to this upper trailhead.

Trail Description

Starting up the trail, the climbing begins right away and is steady throughout the 4 miles to the summit. The first mile and a half is in the forest and lined with lots of wild rhodedendrons which bloom in late May and June. The Pacific Rhodedendron is Washington’s state flower and is wild and native on the Olympic Peninsula. You often see the cultivated variety all over Washington, but the wild ones are taller and more tree like than the cultivated ones.

Continuing climbing, into some more open ravines with some views beginning. There are also several waterfalls that you may see and hear as you climb through this section.

A waterfall surrounded by forest and green shrubs on the Mt Townsend trail
One of the waterfalls along the Mt Townsend trail

About two and a half miles in, you’ll pass Camp Windy where the views really start to open up. They just get better and better as you climb the next set of switchbacks!

View from the Mt Townsend trail includes a forested hillside, a distant islands and waterways and beyond that, distant mountains
A great thing about the Mt Townsend trail is that you see views for about half the distance of the hike. Looking towards the Salish Sea and Cascade mountains

You’ll also start to see more wildflowers from this point from June through August.

Purple and orange wildflowers in a green meadow along the Mt Townsend trail
Some of the wildflowers you’ll see along the Mt Townsend trail in the summer

At approximately 3 miles, you’ll find a junction with the Silver Lakes Trail which goes left. You’ll go to the right for the final push (with really incredible views now) to the summit of Mt Townsend.

The Mt Townsend trail winds through a rocky meadow with wildflowers with high mountains in the background
The trail approaches the summit of Mt Townsend

When you get to the top, there’s lots of room and rocks to spread out on and take some time to eat your food and take in the view.

Whenever you’re ready, go back the way you came to the trailhead and your car.

Breweries and Bakeries near Mt Townsend

One of my favorite stops on the way home is J’aime Les Crepes, with locations at both the Bainbridge and Kingston ferry landings. On Bainbridge, you can also get great fish and chips at Doc’s Marina Grill. Bainbridge Thai is an excellent thai restaurant!

No matter which way you’re going, if you’re a beer fan, check out Hood Canal Brewing (beer only plus a few snacks) between Kingston and Port Townsend. It’s on your way whether you’re taking the bridge or either ferry!

Electric Vehicle Charging

The nearest fast charging is in Port Angeles, 64 miles away. There is also fast charging in Seattle and Tacoma. I only have a 90 mile range in my EV, so I can’t drive mine to the Mt Townsend Trailhead, but if you have a range of over 150 miles then you can probably make it.

A high snow capped mountain and islands and water. Text reads: Mount Townsend hike, Epic views on the Olympic Peninsula
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!