Park Butte with a fresh coat of snow
located south of Mount Baker is one of the most famous of the Washington State Lookouts. It was built in 1932 and periodically has received renovations. With the continuous loss of lookouts over the year one should be very thankful that this lookout is in as good of condition as it is. The lookout receives visitors throughout all the seasons and has been a hiking destinations for many generations. It also has an active lookout on the summit very often occupied throughout each season. The lookout is available on a first come first serve basis and periodically and contains a bed inside the lookout. It is maintained by the Skagit Alpine Club. There is a donation area up there so please donate to the Skagit Alpine Club if you do plan to stay overnight and leave no trace. Be prepared to be sharing it with other people if you are lucky even to make this your overnight accommodations. Even as I was hiking up there in fall after one of the first snowfalls of the season there were five people who had stayed overnight the night before on the lookout tower. It is also not uncommon for the trail up to this lookout to be very busy with visitors from Seattle and Bellingham.
Looking south toward Dock Butte from the Lookout
There is a very big reason for this popularity. First is the fact that Park Butte is a very easy 7.5 miles; 2200 elevation gain round-trip Class 1 walk up hike to get to. The trail on the way up is at a very gradual to moderate and never really gets intense throughout the hike. The trail is also in very good condition when the trail actual does melt out. The snow-free hiking season for Park Butte is generally from July to late October though this can fluctuate depending on the amount of snow that has fallen in the winter or when the snow season decides to start. I have seen trip report of the trail being snow-covered going into as late as August and I myself had to wear snowshoes as early as October 5th. That being said even in snow Park Butte rise up at such a gradual grade that many experienced hikers will have little problem getting to this summit.
The Lookout from the end rock
The second major reason why Park Butte is famous is because of the excellent views from the summit rocks and the looking. The closeup view of Mount Baker is a major draw for anyone who wants checkout the Easton Glacier closeup. In addition one has excellent views east to the North Cascades, west to the towering red Twins and the Puget Sound, and south to the peaks Glacier Peak, Sloan Peak, Dock Butte and of a very distant Mount Rainier. One can easily spend as much time on the summit of Park Butte admiring the major views as spending the time head up this classic summit.
South Twin from near the summit of Park Butte. Just a sample of the type of views from the summit.
VIA THE SCHRIEBERS MEADOWS TRAILHEAD: Heading from the west, take Route 20 east to milepost 82. Make a left onto the Baker Lake Highway. This road will be hard to spot so be alert when you start getting close. Take it 12 miles and then make a left on Forest Road 12. Once on Forest Road 12 go 3.5 miles. Make a right on the well marked Forest Road road 13. Take this road 5.5 miles all the way to the large and well marked trailhead. This is popular, full and well marked trailhead with primitive camping areas as well.
The route here described is the summer route. Once out of the parking area you head straight onto the well marked trail (there will be a junction with the Scott Paul trail to your right). You will want to take the trail over Rocky Creek, which can be iffy sometimes to cross, especially after a major rainstorm or recent snow melt. Once past Rocky Creek the well maintained trail moderately rises up the by way of switchbacks. About 2.0 miles up to the trail it will reach another junction with the Scott Paul Trail that is very well marked. Make a left here and take it up to the Morovitz Meadows. At the next fork make a left on the Park Butte Trail and stay on it all of the way up to the lookout area.
Park Butte Map
A Pacific Northwest forest pass is required at the trailhead. From November to April there is a the Park Butte Sno-Park which will require a Sno-Park Pass ($21 for the day; $42 for the year)
Night time view from the lookout.
Park Butte is available as a first come first serve basis. There is a bed located at the lookout along with a stove. There are toilet services that are located that are moderately closeby. The one I saw was about a mile away. When the toilet is not available then you are required to pack and pack out all of your waste and bring a blue bag. For more information on staying the night at Park Butte and other lookouts in the region click on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Lookout Park Links.
Camping though is not limited to the lookout. There also camping facilities at the Schriebers Meadows trailhead that are available on a first come first serve basis and along various areas around the lookout area.
When to Climb
First good look from Lower Morovits Meadow. Keep in mind this picture is from July!!
Park Butte can be summited at any time. However the distance to the Park Butte summit is determined by how low the snowline is at the time in which you are planning the hike. In late fall and winter conditions like the time time I went up when the snowline was at 4500 feet snowshoes were fine to head up to the summit.
External LinksPark Butte Peakbagger Home Page