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Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
The Cold Springs Trail offers the most direct hiking approach up the western slope of Mt. Constitution to the summit. Like many trails, Cold Springs has two trailheads. Depending on which trailhead you choose to begin at, and which connections you take, your journey can be relatively strenuous or easy. The lower trailhead shares its beginning with the West Boundary Trail (see article this website) and is located not far from the Park’s north entrance. The upper trailhead can be found adjacent to the Mt. Constitution Road, and additionally offers the easiest hiking approach to the mountain’s popular summit.

The trail up the mountain leaves the wide-open lakeshore views and enters a dark forest. Climbing higher, few distant views interrupt the steady pace. Despite the appearance of attractive cascades tumbling down Cold Creek along trail switchbacks, the forest is generally drier than expected; the steep thin soiled slopes are unable to hold onto much of the available moisture. An occasional flat spot or bluff top offers a good opportunity to pause, take in whatever view can be had and try to experience the forest serenity as heart and breathing rates slow down.

As the trail enters the final narrow stream cut it passes through a notch in Hidden Ridge marking the end of the steep portion of the ascent. At the ridgeline itself, a trail to the left begins the North Side Trail (see article this website) which traverses along Hidden Ridge before it widely circles the north side of Mt. Constitution. Continuing on just a short distance, the character of the forest changes noticeably. The steep slope is now replaced with flatter terrain. Shallow depressions in the topography contain numerous water catchments in all stages of succession; from small temporary ponds to swamps and even bogs. Moisture so apparently absent on the steep slope is abundant here, much of it held in the spongy organic matter accumulating in the low places. Not only is the vegetation different but wildlife associated with wetter habitats can be found here. Some, like the amphibians of the forest, are entirely dependent on seasonal pond water for their reproduction.

The trail continues east over relatively level terrain reaching the upper Cold Springs Trailhead next to the Mt. Constitution Road. Along the trail just before reaching the road is the location of the historic cold springs. On this south facing slope of the mountain with only buggy forest wetlands offering a source of water; the location of a cool, clean mountain spring was a welcomed delight. Even before the first rough wagon road was constructed up the mountain this spring was a well cherished stop during an often hot dry approach. A hand pump was once available for passerby’s to pump their own spring water. Over the years, the surrounding area was cleared and developed into a popular campground. The grassy meadow can become soft and damp in rainy weather hinting at its long ago pond origins. Nearby, the large picnic shelter is an example of the characteristically solid stone and timber construction of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. Though no longer a campground, the site is still popular with day time picnickers who appreciate the cool moist forest clearing on a hot dry summer day.

On the other side of the road from Cold Springs, a short trail segment leads east connecting with the Little Summit Trail (see article this website). This connection makes the upper Cold Springs Trailhead the shortest and easiest trail approach to the Mt. Constitution summit. During the summer you’ll only find hikers and walkers on the trail but during the late fall, winter, and early spring; mountain bikers are allowed to share the trail. Those with skills or daring or hopefully both, can enjoy the challenge of the “free” ride down the mountain that gravity provides them. How they first get to the top of the mountain is another story.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 6/6/2011

Directions

Drive to the north entrance of Moran State Park, five miles south of the village of Eastsound on the Olga Road. For the hike up: Begin at the day-use area on the north shore of Cascade Lake. For the upper trailhead continue driving to the left turn-off for the Mt. Constitution Road. Proceed up the mountain road, driving through several switchbacks and as the road straightens out in a little more than 3 ½ miles, park at the Cold Springs Trailhead on your left.

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