Outdoors

Trail of the week

BUD BLANCHER TRAIL

HIKE DESCRIPTION: Grab a mountain bike and hop on the Bud Blancher Trail in Eatonville, and 6 miles and 1,000 vertical feet later you can be on top of Hugo Peak.

Starting in Eatonville and running to Pack Forest, the Bud Blancher Trail was christened in October 2014 after the completion of a pair of bridges, one over the Mashel River and the other over the Little Mashel River. Now, the gravel trail stretches about 2.5 miles before turning into a dirt road that leads users to the network of trails and unpaved roads at Pack Forest.

For walkers and others sticking to the completed portion of trail, it’s a flat trip highlighted by the two bridges. It visits Smallwood Park and has an impressive view of Mount Rainier from the short section near Swanson Airport.

After crossing the Little Mashel bridge, find Falls Trail on the uphill side of the trail. This leads to Little Mashel Falls. Be careful near the falls, however. The rocks can be very slippery, and visitors have been injured here in the past.

The other option after crossing the Little Mashel bridge is to follow the dirt road to a gate marking the entrance to Pack Forest. Inside the forest, there are more than 50 miles of trails and roads. (These are also assessable via the Falls Trail.)

Pack Forest can be a bit confusing even with a map (and a map is highly recommended). But even if you get off course, it’s hard (although, probably not entirely impossible) to stay lost for too long. The Hugo Peak Trail for hikers, 1000 Road for bikers and the horse trail are all good ways to get to the top of Hugo Peak.

From there you can keep going even farther to check out huge trees on the Trail of the Giants near Kirkland Pass; the Bethel Family rock, an engraved rock located at the highest point in the forest (about 300 feet higher than Hugo) just off of the 2000 Road loop; and 1300 Road, which offers a view of Mount Rainier.

DIRECTIONS: Heading south on Washington Avenue in Eatonville, turn left on Center Street and find the trailhead on your right at the top of the small hill. This is the ideal place for walkers and runners to start. Those on bikes, or those wishing to do the entire trail, can start at the trailhead near the town ball fields. To reach the ball field parking lot, turn left on Lynch Creek Road from Washington Avenue.

DIFFICULTY RATING: 2-5 depending on how far you go (1=easiest, 5=most difficult).

MILES ROUND TRIP: 5 to more than 50 if you link to Pack Forest trails and roads.

ELEVATION: 130 feet or more if you link to Pack Forest.

BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round.

MAP: No maps available for Blancher Trail. Maps of Pack Forest are available on its website.

PASS: None.

ALSO: Look out for work crews with heavy machinery on 1300 Road and the eastern section of 1000 Road. Pack Forest is 4,300 acres and part of the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. The trail is named for Bud Blancher, a mechanic at the Eatonville airport who was passionate about cycling. Dogs must be on leashes. There are several geocaches hidden in the area.

INFO: Eatonville-wa.gov, packforest.org.

Craig Hill, craig.hill@thenewstribune.com

@AdventureGuys

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