Where is the Lookout?Three Fingers Lookout stands perched atop the summit crag of the South Summit of Three Fingers. Its amazing position at the top of an exposed summit crag, the wide-open views of the surrounding mountains, and its novelty in this area have made the lookout a very popular objective. Three Fingers is a very prominent mountain just north of the Verlot area on the Mountain Loop Highway. For More info about the mountain itself, and details on approaching the lookout, see the Three Fingers mountain page
The lookout was originally built in 1931 for forest fire spotting and finding. As much as 15 feet were blasted off the top of the summit block to make sufficient room for the building itself, much like its lower neighbor across the Stillaguamish, Mount Pilchuck. A manned lookout was perched atop this blasted summit, but was only manned for a little over 10 years before being abandoned. It sat for more than 30 years afterward, before being restored and added to the National Historic Lookout Register. It is currently looked after by the Everett Mountaineers, and maintained yearly.
Approaching the lookout will require stamina, willpower, minor scrambling ability, and an ice axe. The real "trail" disappears more than a mile from the lookout itself at Tin Can Gap, meaning the rest of the way is a rough bootpath at best. Depending on the season, there may be large moats to cross, steep snow to traverse, and airy exposure. If you are not comfortable with any of this, please do not attempt to get to the lookout. Tin Can Gap is an impressive day's hike; don't feel disappointed if you need to turn around here.
The final section up the summit block is overcome by ladders, which are cabled to the mountain itself to allow access to the lookout without technical climbing. These have become somewhat famous and are also one of the draws of climbing Three Fingers. Watch and wait for others coming up or down, as it is hard to pass by while on the ladders (obviously). There may still be one of the ladders which has fallen, necessitating a bit of scrambling above it to reach the last one.
Camping in the LookoutThe Lookout is Maintained by the Everett Mountaineers. They also maintain a number of other properties including the Mount Pilchuck Lookout, which will be visible from Three Fingers, and they do an amazing job keeping these lofty buildings repaired. If you decide to camp here, please leave the lookout as good or better than when you arrived, as these people are volunteers and are not paid for their hard work to keep the lookout livable. This includes closing the storm shutters and door if you appear to be the last to leave the building.
Camping inside the lookout is free, but operates on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you can get to the lookout the better chance you will have to be the one who stays the night. There also may be crowds of people stopping in throughout the day, so don't expect any solitude until the day hikers are done. The lookout appears to be available during the Winter as well, though the interior may be difficult to access and not well-insulated.
The furnishings inside are quite nice considering, and include a lounge chair, tables, and plenty of old artifacts to look at. There is also plenty of space to set up sleeping pads, so it should be able to fit a minimum of three people, if not four or more. When the author was there, a bottle of Jägermeister graced one of the tables, so other goodies may be left by fellow campers. It's quite interesting to see a lookout as it may have been when a firefinder manned it full-time.
There is no space for an outhouse owing to the lofty location, so the Everett Mountaineers ask people to downclimb the ladders and relieve themselves there due to complaints of the smell. This may be dangerous or impossible at night, so please do the best you can to avoid leaving unpleasant scents near the lookout for future campers.
This lookout, unlike huts in the Alps, in not an "en-route" stopover for most people staying overnight; this tends to be the endpoint, and most parties will turn around and retrace their steps in the morning to descend. There are other ways off the mountain, but all require cross-country travel over serious terrain: if you intend to climb one of the other summits of Three Fingers, or continue on toward lesser-known summits like Salish Peak, Mount Bullen or even a traverse to Whitehorse Mountain, the lookout may be a good stop-over point (although routes may require backtracking to Tin Can Gap)
Red TapeParking at the trailhead will require a NW Forest Pass, which can be acquired at the Verlot Public Service Center and many locations on the way. However, call the Verlot Public Service Center @ (360) 691-7791 to confirm the pass ahead of time- there have been many changes the last year and there are new state passes possibly needed.
There are no campfires between Saddle Lake and the Summit, so if camping in this area please only use gas stoves. Also stay on established trails as much as possible, especially in the Goat Flats area. The flora can be delicate in these areas where the growing season is short, so please don't tromp out new paths.
Plan to pack out what you pack in; there is of course no garbage service at the top of the mountain, so please bring back everything except your own waste.
Please use established campsites at Goat Flats if the Lookout is not available; there are great views of the Puget Sound and also a pit toilet at the Goat Flats area, so this may be a preferable camping spot for some. It can also be a rewarding shorter trip if getting to the lookout is too daunting.
External LinksEverett Mountaineers page on Three Fingers Lookout
WTA Hiking Guide for Three Fingers:
UW Climbing Club topic on camping in Three Fingers Lookout
A Little History