Boulder Garden Loop

Today, Seattle had some clear weather so I decided to go back up to the Little Si Trailhead and do the much-anticipated Boulder Garden Loop.

Directions

From I-90 heading east, take exit 31 to North Bend. Take a left at the roundabout onto SR-202/Bendigo, then take a right onto SE North Bend Way, take a left at SE Mt. Si Road. From here it is well-signed. You will approach the overflow parking before the main parking on the left for the Little Si Trailhead. Park at either. Discover Pass required.

Mt. Si Natural Resources Conservation Area Trail Map

Route

The Boulder Garden trail loops off of the Little Si trail at about .3 miles in and again at .5 miles in, so you can enter the loop at either of these spots. Today, I entered the loop at the first entrance (.3 miles in), but I would recommend starting at the second entrance (.5 miles in). I say this because the loop is quite steep after the second entrance and my knees were not happy going down the slope, they would have rather went up it and and easier time going downhill the other way. Total mileage was estimated to be 1.8 miles by the map, but my Apple Watch said 2.8 miles, with no detours.

Trail Conditions

It was mostly dry, there was some nearly dry mud that I noticed once. This is a well-maintained trail, there was no debris. I only encountered one other person on the loop, but several on the Little Si trail. I was able to get cell reception along the entire hike.

Equipment

I found trekking poles to be highly useful on this hike (and, really, anywhere on Mt. Si). I also opted to wear my more heavy-duty Asolo TPS 520 GV boots because I knew this route would be steep and I’m glad I used them.

The Experience

Little Si Trail starts a bit steep right from the beginning. After a couple switchbacks, and going up some rocks, it levels out right before the first entrance to the Boulder Garden Loop. I took a right here (but you can also continue .2 miles and take a right at the second entrance).

I entered the Boulder Garden Loop here.

The trail is fairly level for a little while but picks up a steady incline about .2 miles in. I climbed about 500 feet in .5 miles with a little push to the top. There were a couple of big boulders/cliffs on the way up. I would be lying if I said I was not mildly disappointed. At this point, it was not living up to its majestic name of “Boulder Garden”.

One of the large boulders I encountered on the way up.

Despair not! Once I got to the top, the boulder-scape really changed. It was less a “Boulder Garden” and more of a “Gnome City”. I imagine that if gnomes were real, they would surely live here! The boulders were covered with moss and were intricately shaped.

After going through a couple of “neighborhoods” in “Gnome City” the descent started with a bang. Poles were essential here to help navigate my footsteps around the rocks that dotted the steep trail. At one point my boot rolled on a stick and I took a fall.

When the loop met back up with the Little Si trail, everything leveled out again. I took a left here.

This is the second entrance to the Boulder Garden Loop, where I exited.

It was nice to rest the knees a bit after that steep descent. The Little Si trail was level for about .2 miles before the .3 mile descent down to the parking lot began. Poles were very useful on this descent as well. Before I knew it, I was back at the parking lot.

This was my Apple Watch data at the end of the hike, back in the parking lot.

As you can see above, this took me a little less than two hours. I went pretty slow, especially on the descents.

The Verdict

This is a worthwhile short hike to do. You could do it alone or tacked onto the Little Si summit hike.

Cumulative Mileage in 2019: 18.35 miles

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