A couple days ago, Lisa and I did a dayhike to the top of Mount Si. The trail is an 8 mile round trip (4 miles in and 4 miles back out) with just over 3,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit. It's a challenging hike, but still within range for people of average fitness, which made it a good choice. It's also one of the most popular hikes anywhere around Seattle, so we decided to tackle it on a Thursday, when the crowds would hopefully be less than on a weekend.
That decision seemed to pay off. The parking lot at Mt. Si is possibly the biggest backcountry parking lot I've ever seen, but it was about 80% empty, and while we did see plenty of folks on the trail, we also had long uninterrupted stretches of solitude. The forest is lovely, and at the bottom it's typical lowland rainforest, with trees enveloped in lush green moss; as the hike goes further up, it turns into more typical evergreen forest, with lots of thin young trees. The younger trees are a result of a major fire that devastated the forests of Mt. Si about a hundred years ago-- there's an informational plaque at the end of a short boardwalk in an area called Snag Flat, about halfway up the trail.
All in all, the trail is fairly boring until you reach the top-- at which point the views are absolutely stunning. We picked a nice clear day to go up, and while there was a bit of haze in the distance, we could still easily see all the way from Mt. Rainier in the south to Mt. Baker in the north; over the skylines of Bellevue and Seattle in the West, past the Olympics, and all the way out to the distant peaks of the Canadian Coastal Range. It's probably the most expansive view I've ever seen in the Pacific Northwest.
The trail doesn't actually go to the very top of the mountain; it stops at the bottom of a rocky outcropping called the Haystack, which is the true summit of Mt. Si and rises another couple hundred feet higher than the trail. There's a tough rocky scramble up to the top; Lisa decided not to try it, but I wanted to give it a shot, so I left her relaxing on a rock while I climbed up the rest of the way. It was a tough climb, made tougher by the snow and ice that still clung to the shadows and crevices of the rock-- but I made it to the top, and spent a few minutes revelling in the 360 degree view before making my way back down.
By the time we reached the bottom, our legs were pretty sore-- it's definitely the hardest dayhike we've ever done. Even writing this a couple days later, I'm still hurting from the climb and descent. But the views from the top were definitely worth it.