Lookout Mountain Lookout, aerial photo taken on December 16, 2008.
Note that this page contains two trip reports for a winter day snowshoe up to Lookout Mountain Lookout. The first time lacked views, so we came back a year and a week later to re-experience the fun and get the views we missed the first time.
On Monday, the weekend weather forecast predicted a snowstorm. By Wednesday, it predicted sun. By Thursday, clouds. And by Friday, it was back to the snowstorm. A typical North Cascades forecast. Brian and I decided that Lookout Mountain would be a good Saturday adventure — snowstorm or sun, the lookout would be a tangible and fun destination.
The Lookout Mountain trailhead is just east of Marblemount, 7 miles up Cascade River Road. The trail begins on the north side of the road; there is parking in a small lot on the south side of the road. The trailhead is at a fairly low elevation of 1250 ft, so it can be accessed all year round. Of course, the lower your start, the more you must climb to get to the top!
Brian and I arrived at the trailhead while it was still dark, eager for a day of snowy hiking. Off we went. After a few steps my headlight batteries died. I returned to the car to get new batteries. Off we went. Brian asked if I had displayed my NW Forest Pass. Back to the car again. Off we went. Third time's a charm.
The trail wastes no time in climbing up a steep timbered spine between Lookout and Monogram creeks. We encountered snow on the trail at about 2500ft and put on snowshoes at about 3600ft. For the rest of the climb we proceeded to take on and off our snowshoes as terrain and snow conditions dictated. For the most part, we followed the faint track of the summer trail, until we reached an open snow slope (4600') where we could see the lookout far above, after which we just slogged and wallowed through deep snow to the top.
On top, we climbed up to the balcony of the mile-high lookout. By now it had begun to snow lightly and clouds obscured the renowned North Cascades scenery. On a clear day, you can gaze west down the Skagit Valley to Sauk and Bald Mountains, or south to Snowking, or north to or east to Teebone Ridge, Big Devil and Little Devil Peaks, and Eldorado, or north to the pointy Pickets.
I have had my eye on Lookout Mountain Lookout for an overnight night photography trip, so I was pleased when we found the door unlocked. The lookout is one of the most well-maintained and well-furnished lookouts I've seen. There are two beds, chairs, tables, and a full stove (not sure about the fuel situation). There are even some books and about ten stuffed animals to keep you company.
All in all, this was a fun day, with the lookout making up for the fact that the views didn't quite deliver. I will definitely be back for some night photography!
The lookout on the summit of Lookout Mountain is one of the last remaining fire lookouts in the North Cascades. The original lookout was constructed in 1929 as a 2-story "cathedral" cabin. This structure was demolished in 1967, and replaced by a 30' treated timber R-6 tower that was constructed in 1962. This structure still stands strong and tall today, and is maintained by volunteers. The person primarily responsible for the lookout has been Dan Trudeau in conjunction with the Forest Service. They did a lot of restoration work back in 2002. The Sunray stove is a vestigial remainder from its last staffed days back in the 60s. The lookout is open to the public on a first come, first serve basis.
It is my goal to eventually visit all the remaining standing fire lookouts scattered about the mountain ranges of Washington. Click the following link to go to my webpage on fire lookout structures of Washington, which gives a bit of history of fire lookouts as well as a complete listing of the remaining standing lookout structures in the state.
Stats (Jan 2012):
Roundtrip distance: 9.4 milesStart elev.: 1250 ftSummit/Lookout elev: 5719 ftElevation gain: 4470 ftAscent: 4:00, Descent: 2:30, Time in lookout: 0:45, Total car-to-car: 7:15
5:45 am: Met in Sedro-Woolley
6:50 am: Arrived at TH (1250 ft)
7:15 am: Started hiking up trail
7:57 am: Sunrise
8:00 am: Hit snow on trail (2500 ft)
8:44 am: Put on snowshoes (3500 ft)
8:53 am: Took off snowshoes
10:02 am: Put on snowshoes
10:41 am: Took off snowshoes
11:11 am: Put on snowshoes
11:18 am: Summit/Lookout (5719 ft)
12:03 pm: Began descent
2:35 pm: Arrived back at car
4:27 pm: Sunset
We hit snow on the trail at about 2500'.
The open snow slope at about 4600'. If you look closely, you can see the lookout on top. This slope would have slide potential if the snow is unstable.
Waves of snow.
The best view of the surrounding mountains that we got all day.
Lookout Mountain Lookout.
Brian climbing up the stairs of the lookout.
Rimed railings of the lookout.
Rimed railings of the lookout.
Inside the lookout. Two beds, a stove, chairs, stuffed animals, and more.
The permanent residents of Lookout Mountain Lookout.
Owl on guard duty.
January 2013 Trip Report
A year and a week after Brian and my first Lookout Mountain adventure, we again snowshoed up to the lookout, accompanied by friends Andrea, Gabriel, and Lindsay. This time it was a very pleasant winter day, the snow was light and fluffy, and the 360° views abounded. Some photos and then some trip stats for this worthy snowshoe daytrip are are given below.
Really cool ice forms near the trailhead.
We were 5 min early, they were 5 min late. Which meant more photos of these really cool ice forms.
I could have entertained myself photographing the ice forms at the trailhead all day. But the mountain views beckoned, so up we headed.
We hit snow on the trail about 10 minutes from the trailhead, at about 1600'. It is interesting to note that the snowline was about 1000' lower then it was almost exactly a year earlier. Here are some snow ripples on the way up.
The 4500 vertical foot upward slog was enjoyable, as upward slogs usually are.
Gabriel taking his turn plowing the trench of the last 1000 vertical feet to the lookout. The hillside gets a bit steeper and the snow even deeper in the last 1000'.
Four hours after leaving the car, we reached the Lookout Mountain Lookout. Four hours is the same amount of time it took us the previous year too.
Beware of ice on the stairway.
On the deck of the lookout.
Looking down at our tracks and packs from the deck of the lookout.
Enjoying lunch inside the lookout. Another party had also chosen the lookout as their day's destination, so it was a full house.
The owl (see my 2012 report above) is still on guard duty and still wearing his scarf. However, he has moved his perch a couple of windows down.
Compare this photo to the photo taken the year previous (see my 2012 report above). The stuffies have rearranged themselves.
I noticed that a faux lightbulb was installed sometime in 2012.
Some wintery views: looking westward from the lookout.
Some more wintery views: Mt. Baker to the north.
A group photo minus the photographer: Lindsay, Gabriel, Andrea, Brian,
One last photo of the Lookout Mountain Lookout. It's quite picturesque up here. Someday I will have to come and spend the night and do some night photography of the lookout.
Heading back down through the fluffy snow, Eldorado in the distance. It took us just over 2 hours to get back to the car.
Stats (Jan 2013):
Roundtrip distance: 9.4 milesStart elev.: 1250 ftSummit/Lookout elev: 5719 ftElevation gain: 4470 ftAscent: 4:00, Descent: 2:05, Time in lookout: 1:20, Total car-to-car: 7:25
6:45 am: Met in Sedro-Woolley
7:53 am: Sunrise
8:00 am: Arrived at TH (1250 ft)
8:25 am: Started hiking up trail
8:35 am: Hit snow on trail (1600 ft)
9:15 am: Put on snowshoes (2600 ft)
12:25 pm: Summit/Lookout (5719 ft)
1:45 pm: Began descent
3:50 pm: Arrived back at car
4:35 pm: Sunset
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: www.stephabegg.com.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe