OverviewCopper Mountain Lookout, also known as Copper Ridge Lookout and Copper Lookout, is the name of a lookout site as well as the unofficial name for the peak on which the site is located. The peak has far-ranging views in every direction, with some of the most superb views of the North Cascades that a person could find from any active lookout site. The peak also qualifies as an actual standalone mountain, as it has 400' of clean prominence. The lookout site has an official elevation of 6260' but the true summit of the peak, a very short walk north of the lookout site, is listed at 6280'+ elevation.
Reaching Copper Mountain Lookout is a straightforward hike. However, due to the long distance involved, the peak is most commonly ascended as part of a multi-day hike. Also, due to snow typically lingering along the approach until August or later, the optimum season for this peak is from late August until early October.
The most notable aspect of the peak is the lookout building which stands below the summit. The lookout building is a wooden L-4 cab constructed during the early 1930s. The building was temporarily used as an Aircraft Warning System location during World War II before resuming to its original purpose as a location from which to watch for wildfires. The peak is ideal for firewatching, with expansive views of the North Cascades.
The lookout is currently only used during Summer hiking season, as a base for Wilderness Rangers within North Cascades National Park. The rangers typically stay at the site for 5-10 consecutive days while patrolling the Copper Ridge area. Hikers are not allowed to camp on the peak or in the lookout; entry into the lookout building is closed to the public and only allowed at a present ranger's discretion. Despite the lookout being used by Wilderness Rangers, the building is maintained by a non-profit group known as the North Cascades National Park Historic Preservationists.
Copper Mountain Lookout (Peak) is not to be confused with Copper Mountain, a high-prominence peak located several miles further northwest along an adjoining ridgeline.
Getting ThereFROM THE TOWN OF GLACIER, WA:
1) Drive east along Highway 542 (Mount Baker Highway).
2) After approximately 12 miles, turn left onto Forest Road 32. Forest Road 32 is an unpaved road but drivable for street-legal vehicles.
3) After approximately 5.5 miles, reach a large parking area representing the end of the road. The Hannegan Pass Trailhead is located here.
RouteSTARTING AT HANNEGAN PASS TRAILHEAD (3100' elevation):
1) Hike 4.0 miles up Hannegan Pass Trail to Hannegan Pass (5086').
2) From Hannegan Pass, the trail drops approximately 600' in 1.0 mile to the trail junction at Boundary Camp (4440').
3) From the trail junction at Boundary Camp, veer left onto Copper Ridge Trail.
4) Follow Copper Ridge Trail for 3.2 miles until reaching Silesia Camp. The trail reaches the ridge crest of Copper Ridge at 5400', and then reaches Silesia Camp at 5640'.
5) From Silesia Camp, continue hiking along Copper Ridge Trail, going up and down several hills while en route, for 2.0 miles until reaching the summit of Copper Mountain Lookout Peak (6280'+). The true summit is a very short walk north of the lookout site.
HIKING DISTANCE FROM HANNEGAN PASS TH TO SUMMIT: 10.2 miles one-way with approximately 3700' cumulative gain (including various ups and downs).
COPPER RIDGE/CHILLIWACK RIVER VALLEY LOOP:
A popular hike in the area is a loop of Copper Ridge and the Chilliwack River valley. However, the loop is approximately 35 miles roundtrip.
A map showing the loop route, campgrounds, and trails is found at this link.
CampingHere are the closest designated campgrounds to Copper Mountain Lookout Peak:
HANNEGAN PASS TRAILHEAD: 10.2 miles from Copper Mountain Lookout.
HANNEGAN CAMP: 4.2 miles from Hannegan Pass TH, 6.4 miles from Copper Mountain Lookout.
BOUNDARY CAMP: 5.0 miles from Hannegan Pass TH, 5.2 miles from Copper Mountain Lookout.
SILESIA CAMP: 8.2 miles from Hannegan Pass TH, 2.0 miles from Copper Mountain Lookout.
EGG LAKE CAMP: 8.7 miles from Hannegan Pass TH, 2.5 miles from Copper Mountain Lookout.
COPPER LAKE CAMP: 11.4 miles from Hannegan Pass TH, 1.2 miles beyond Copper Mountain Lookout.
A map showing the campgrounds and trails is found at this link.
For further details regarding the campgrounds, numbers of available campsites, and other information, please contact the Glacier Ranger Station or North Cascades National Park Headquarters.
When to ClimbTYPICAL SEASON: Late July through Early October
As mentioned early, due to snowpack lingering along the approach until August, most people wait until at least August before attempting this peak.
Special precautions need to be made when visiting this peak while snowpack is still present. The approach goes over and around multiple steep slopes; an ice axe and crampons/microspikes should be taken.
Between Boundary Camp and the ridge crest of Copper Ridge, the potentially most dangerous section of Copper Ridge Trail is where it crosses a gully at Hells Gorge. This gully holds steep snow and ice until mid-to-late Summer, during which time a side-traverse is necessary. However, use extra caution for this section as a slip could be fatal.
Red TapeParking at Hannegan Pass TH requires a Northwest Forest Pass (USFS parking permit).
The biggest "Red Tape" is associated with overnight stays in the area.
Backcountry use permits are required for all overnight trips in the area, regardless of planned camping location. These permits are free, on a first-come-first-served basis, and need to be acquired at the Glacier Ranger Station prior the visit. These backcountry use permits are not available at the Hannegan Pass Trailhead and not issued anywhere along the trail system or within the surrounding wilderness.
Along the Hannegan Pass Trail, Chilliwack Valley Trail, and Copper Ridge Trail, camping is only allowed at designated campsites. Each campground has limited sites. There are only four campgrounds between Hannegan Pass Trailhead and Copper Mountain Lookout, and only one more campground beyond the lookout site but still on Copper Ridge.
There is no running water atop Copper Ridge. Backcountry water is only available along Copper Ridge at Egg Lake or Copper Lake, as well as at the Chilliwack River in the valley below Hannegan Pass.
Maximum group size is 12.
Pets and hunting are not allowed along the approach to Copper Mountain Lookout.