Mount Leecher is a 5020 foot peak 15 miles southeast of Twisp and 5 miles east of the Methow River. The main point of interest for Leecher stems from its long history of involvement with the fire lookout program. 80 years ago there were as many as 8000 fire lookouts located on high points and summits across the country. Only recently the number of old fire lookouts left standing in Washington State has dropped below 100. For that reason, the remaining lookouts and the peaks on which they stand are valued by many hikers and climbers. Over the years, Leecher has been the home of several different structures which have been moved from peak to peak, some being replaced by others and some falling into disrepair.
The current lookout structure was originally built in 1939 and placed on Chiliwist Butte, but was later moved to Mount Leecher in 1954. Some of these lookout structures are open to the public and often serve as bivouac shelters. Unfortunately, the one on Mount Leecher is locked up tight. Visitors may go only as far as the stairway leading up below the balcony. The reason for the lock-down might be that the structure is still in use during the summer and $65,000 was put into renovations on the structure in 2009.
What most people don't realize is that Leecher is actually home to two lookout structures. The second structure, known as a "crow's nest" is nearly 100 years old and has fallen into bad disrepair. These "crow's nest" structures predated many of the man-made towers and made use of trees to gain a better view. On the crest of the ridge 1000 feet southeast of the lookout tower, stands the large old pine tree. If you look closely, you can just barely make out the remains of the lookout platform nested high in the tree and the rotten old ladder reaching down to the base of the tree. This original lookout was built in 1918. Admittedly, it's not much to look at, but this type of lookout is extremely rare. For lookout enthusiasts, it's worth the side-trip.
Visit the firelookout.com page to see a photograph of the crow's nest tree.
Driving Directions / RouteThere are several cross-country ways to the summit of Leecher, but why not take the road? In past years the road was gated 1.2 miles from the summit but it seems that since the repairs in 2009, the gate is being left open. Worst case scenario, be prepared for a 1.2 mile road walk with just over 600 feet of elevation gain.
From the town of Twisp go east of Highway 20 for 2 miles past the bridge and then turn south on Highway 153 (Methow Valley Highway). Continue south on Highway 153 for 3.1 miles and then turn left on Benson Creek Drive which might be marked on some maps as National Forest Road 4150. Follow this road for 9.8 miles to the junction with French Creek Road. Turn right onto French creek Road and keep right at the fork at 0.6 miles. Follow French Creek Road for 4.7 miles to the summit or park at the gate if it is closed. The last mile of the road beyond the gate might not be suitable for low clearance vehicles.