South Fork Tieton Headwaters Basin and Conrad Headwaters, July 7-8, 2005

Hike #71 in "100 Classic Hikes in Washington" describes an out-and-back-plus-loop route starting at Conrad Meadows (3900 feet) and winding around the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tieton River.  The scenery is described in glowing terms, and the hike itself is described as 15 miles, high point 5500 feet, "allow 3 days, hikable July through September". 

Given the light snowpack this year, I had thought it just might be passable very early this year (April 22-23).  That proved to be wrong, as described here.

However, the route was very promising, and when I had the chance to go back, midweek after the long July 4th weekend, I jumped on it.

It was gorgeous! 

Weather was perfect on day 1, but completely cloudy with periodic mist turning to light rain on day 2.  Consider Meade glacier on both days...


Moving fast, the hike was one day in and a partial day out, including the whole Tieton loop and most of the Conrad headwaters.  (I stopped at the main branch of Conrad Creek, which was running a bit more than I wanted to cross solo with weather threatening.)   Total distance probably around 17 miles with pack, plus a few more wandering around up top.  See map combining GPS records from the April trip and this one.

I left home at 5:30 am, hit the trail at Conrad meadows at 8:10 am, and reached a great campsite on the flat below Meade glacier by 4:15 pm.  This was going up the right side of the loop.  Coming back down the other side, by Surprise Lake, it was leave camp at 8:30, arrive back at car at 1:15, back home around 5 pm.

No snow at all on the trail, only a little bit near it in gullies. 

See photo album for more still pictures.  I also shot two full spherical interactive panos on this hike.  One of them was in the middle of the trail up the steep talus slope to the saddle between the Tieton and Conrad drainages.  The other was in the meadow where I snow-camped in April.  (Each is about 5 MB download, QuickTime.)

This is a great hike, but I recommend midweek.  On Thursday, with great weather, I met one solo hiker, one group of three, and only 2 people on horses, all apparently doing just the loop.  Nobody else on top.  On Friday, with clouds turning to rain, I met just one hiker but 5 people on horses -- two of them headed up top -- and numerous horse trailers congregating at Conrad Meadows when I left at 1:30 pm.

By the way, due to more trail re-routing, the "unmarked junction" mentioned in the guidebook is not where the USGS map shows it.  In fact, it's just a little ways from the main fork of the South Tieton, on the Surprise Lake side.


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Page last modified June 27, 2006