By Gary Huff
Mt. Zion: 4,274 ft.
Elevation gain: 1,324 ft. Distance: 3.6 miles. Time: 2 hrs. Trailhead: 3,950 ft. 10% alpine. Rating 2.
Overview:Mt. Zion is not one of my favorite hikes. The summit is just a clearing in the trees where an old lookout used to stand. But it is a lower elevation hike, often available when the higher peaks are covered in snow. In the spring the wild rhododendrons are beautiful. And the summit does offer good views east to the Puget Sound & Cascades and west to Mt. Deception, The Needles, Tyler, Baldy, Gray Wolf and Mt. Townsend.
Getting to the Trailhead:Off of Hwy 101, 2 miles north of Quilcene take the Lords Lake loop road ( it is about 13 miles to the trailhead on gravel roads from here) to Lords Lake (a fenced reservoir), turn left and stay right on road #28 until it hits forest service road #27 and a sign. Left is road #27, right continues #28 (Bon Jon pass) Go right 2 miles, turn right on road #2810 (signed) 2 miles to the Mt. Zion trailhead, (trail # 836) on the right and the parking lot and bathroom on the left side of the road. Or from Sequim, take the paved Palo Alto road off of Hwy 101, 2.8 miles southeast of Sequim. Drive 8 miles; turn left on gravel road #28. (Sign will say to Mt. Zion trail) near the end of Palo Alto road. Drive on road #28 for approximately 6 miles then take a left to stay on road #28. (Note: be sure not to turn left on road # 2840 before this junction) After 1 more mile, take a left (there will be a small white detour sign with Arrow.) Drive 1 mile (8 miles from Palo Alto Rd.and 16 miles from Hwy 101) to the Mt. Zion trailhead on the left.
The Hike:From the pullout, cross the road and hike up the steep slope, aiming just left of Steeple Rock. There is a faint trail up through the scree and heather. Though it is quite steep, the footing is solid with some back sliding in the scree rock. Three fourths of the way up the ridge, there is a difficult spot because of a rock rib covered with broken, loose rock. Alternatives are to go left through junipers or to the right around the large rock outcrop.
The Trail:The 1.6 mile trail ascends gradually through second growth Doug Fir, ferns, salal and rhododendrons for the first mile. Then it turns and traverses beneath basalt rock and switchbacks to the top. Lichen Spire, which technical climbers use on its northeast and west faces, rises above the trail .5 miles from the top. And there are 500 foot cliffs stretching along the southwest face of Mt. Zion which technical climbers often use. Views from the top are good as described above. Mt. Townsend is closest and most dramatic.