Boulders on the Carlson Creek Trail, Cle Elum, Washington

Hiking carlson creek loop trail in Teanaway, washington

Carlson Creek Loop Instantly Becomes One of My Favorite Day Hikes in the Cascades

I loved this short (4 mile), easy hike in Teanaway, Washington. I had gone to it with modest expectations, simply looking for a nice walk on my final day in the area, but ended up discovering one of my favorite day hikes in the Cascades.

What’s so great about it, you ask?

Well, I’m getting to that, friend. But, first, I want to help you out with something–I’m going to clarify how to actually get to the trailhead, which can be somewhat confusing because there are no clear signs.

I’ve also pinned the location to Google Maps with driving directions from Seattle here (click the “here“).

So, when you get to the destination pinned on that map linked to the “here,” you’re going to find yourself in a big dirt cul-de-sac with multiple roads, horse trails, and ATV routes branching off from it. Facing west from this locating, you’ll see the two roads visible in the picture below.

You want to take the road on your left. The one with the yellow gate and the peppermint-striped metal plate. No more than 100 feet beyond that gate, you’ll see the trail cutting off to the left. That is the Carlson Creek Loop trail.

Roads branching at Carlson Creek trailhead.
Take the road on the left. The LEFT! No more than 100 feet beyond that you take another left onto the trail.

Open Space, Blue Skies, and Wildflowers on Carlson Creek Loop

What I liked most about the Carlson Creek Loop was its openness. This might be an odd selling point, but I think hikers from western Washington will understand.

Western Washington has some of the most beautiful country on God’s green Earth, but it can get a bit claustrophobic as you hike for mile after mile of fir-tunnel. You’ll frequently go miles seeing nothing but soaring trees, pine-bed floors, and the sparse wildlife that that environment welcomes, only getting a broader view of the surrounding countryside at the final peak or viewpoint (assuming the trail has such a thing).

Carlson Creek Loop, on the other hand, has several clearings which, as of July 18, 2021, were filled with wildflowers, and which also afforded views of beautiful blue sky overhead. The trees are spaced out, which means you get a more expansive view of your surroundings, and which also means that wildlife has more room to roam. There were big mountain rabbits, butterflies, and birds all along the trail.

There are two gnarly boulder clusters, as well, and some positively psychedelic-looking mosses. You’ll find the boulders roughly halfway along the trail.

Boulders on the Carlson Creek Trail, Cle Elum, Washington
These boulders are about halfway along the trail. Beautiful voodoo, surrealistic stonescapes.
Lime green moss against black tree trunk
I love the contrast of this moss against the burnt tree.

Carlson Creek Seen from Up High on the Carlson Creek Loop

Carlson Creek itself if a pretty little waterway, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it exceptional. At least, not exceptional from the creek-bank view.

From up high, however, Carlson Creek is quite beautiful. Fortunately, the Carlson Creek Loop affords just such a high-ground viewpoint. There’s a roughly quarter-mile stretch of trail that runs alongside a steep drop with the creek at the bottom.

PRO TIP: If you dig the nausea of vertigo (and who doesn’t?), try looking out at the treetops as you stand at this overlook point (which you can’t miss as you hike the loop). It’s a positively gut-churning experience.

Looking down on Carlson Creek from up high.
Carlson Creek overview.

Carlson Creek Loop is an Excellent Hike for Pacific Northwesterners Looking for Something New

Carlson Creek Loop doesn’t have the grandeur of Mount Rainier or Mount Si, and I don’t think I’d recommend it to out-of-towners who only have a short time to visit the region. But for those who have lived here a long time and are looking for something new, I would most definitely recommend this hike.

The trail is easy, and I promise you that I am not one of those people who undersells trail difficulty (as so many other hiking sites are infuriatingly wont to do). If anything I try to oversell the difficulty, because I personally despise when a site or person tells me something is easy and then I get there to find it’s a study in suck. Suck most definitely has its place, but I like to know what I’m getting into.

I love this little trail and plan on making a regular destination while up in the Roslyn area. Four miles is enough to get the blood pumping, but it’s a smooth, easy hike, with spacious skies and beautiful oddities to stumble upon along the way.

View of trees and distant rocks from Carlson Creek Loop.
I love the smooth, flowing stonescape in the distance.

Enjoy, my friends. And, as always, happy nomadding.

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