Mt. Tyler: 6,364 ft.Elevation gain: 3,264 ft. Distance: 6 mi. Time: 6 hrs. 50% alpine. Trailhead 3,100 ft. Enjoyment rating: 5.
Overview:This is a steep hike to a gorgeous alpine ridge and peak, where you will see very few people. It is remote, wild and the views are great. Tyler stands on a ridge with four other peaks: False Baldy, Baldy, Graywolf, & Walkinshaw. The Gray wolf and Dungeness valleys fall away on either side. And the trail is southfacing so is free of snow 4-6 weeks earlier than other peaks.
Getting to The Trailhead:It is 16.6 miles from Hwy 101 to the trailhead. Take Palo Alto road off of Hwy 101, 2.8 miles east of Sequim, or 1.5 miles west of Sequim Bay State Park. Drive to the end of the paved road, 8 miles, then turn down and right on forest service gravel road 2880. The sign here says Dungeness Forks Campground and Trails. Drive past Dungeness Forks Campground and hit the junction with road #2870, coming in from your right at 9.6 mi. Continue straight (the road now is #2870) and hit junction with road #2860 at 12 miles, coming in from your left. Stay right and continue up. At 16.6 miles come to a sign with says “Upper Dungeness Trail 2 miles”. At this sign there is an ummarked road (#120 on the topo) going right. Turn right and drive 1.7 miles to the end of the old fire road and the trailhead.
The Trail:The trail is not well known because it is a recent addition put in by locals. It begins in the same area as the Baldy, Graywolf trailhead. At the end of the road the trail begins behind a fir tree immediately to the right. (The Baldy, Graywolf trail is straight.) About 200 yards up the trail turn to the right. (There is a game trail that wants to take you straight but it leads down to the creek bottom and a dead end.) The trail is fairly steep up through forest, but provides peak-a-boo views of the surrounding mountains and breaks out of the trees in about 2 miles. The trail ends here, in an open , grassy area draining a small creek. (Note: Mark your location where the trail ends for the return trip.) Straight ahead is the long saddle connecting Mounts Tyler and Baldy. Up to your right is what looks like Mt. Tyler but Tyler is actually behind this, as yet unseen. Go right here and follow the creek drainage up toward the ridge peaks. It’s fairly easy to see the way through heather meadows and rock Expansive views now open up all around.
The Peak: Once you gain the ridge, you will see the real Mt. Tyler, about a quarter mile in front of you, northeast along another spur ridge. This may be an o’shit moment but take heart; the top takes just 15 minutes more. And the views are all spectacular. You can see over 50 Olympic Peaks. Running southwest are the peaks above the Graywolf River and Royal Creek: Baldy, Greywolf, Walkinshaw, the Needles and Deception. Southeast are the peaks of the Buckhorn Wilderness. Southwest is Constance and Warrior Peaks. North is the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with Sequim and Protection Island featured. Northeast is Blue Mt. and the the peaks of Grand Ridge.
For the return you can either go back the way you came or make it a loop by hiking west, down to the saddle and walking the ridge toward False Baldy. At tree line on False Baldy, turn south and walk down the tree line to catch the Baldy trail back to the trailhead from which you started. It adds a fun 1.5 miles of ridge walking to the trip.
The Story:Half way up the trail to Mt. Tyler one day, I had a close encounter with a cougar. I was walking up a steep portion of the trail which bent around a large fir tree. I stopped to catch my breath, enjoy the views and mark the trail for the return. When I stepped around the tree, my hiking pole hit within 12 inches of a cougar’s paw. He had sneaked up behind the tree while I had stood there. The cougar exploded from behind the tree and ran down the trail about 50 feet and stopped. There was dust flying everywhere. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. When the cougar crouched down and came back toward me a few steps, I made myself as big and aggressive as possible. I waved my arms, my hat and hiking poles. I never took my eyes off of him nor made myself smaller by bending down to grab a rock or stick. The cat took a couple more steps toward me, then stopped. We stared each other down for a few minutes. Then, like a ghost, he disappeared into the trees. My adrenaline was so high that I almost flew down the trail, albeit backwards for the first half mile.
The next day I went back to the area, with a hiking buddy, to take pictures and reconstruct what had happened. We found his tracks coming over and down the ridge toward the tree and then digging in the last 15 feet, as he sneaked up behind the tree. It appeared to be a coincidence that he was coming down as I was coming up. The hiking poles scared him. Most likely he came back at me to test whether I was prey. I say him because he looked like a big tom, weighing about 150 lbs or so. I remember being struck by the fact that his head was bigger than mine. He was probably 3 or 4 years old and was still in his testy years. His movements were the most graceful and agile that I have ever seen in an animal. I have since learned that only 10% of cougar encounters happen in the wilderness. Most occur in rural areas where people and younger cats are more prevalent. In the wilderness the older toms are dominate and don’t want to be seen.