Just like a book cannot be judged by its cover, the same can be suggested about Haystack Mountain, located in Snohomish County, Washington.
Despite its low elevation, Haystack Mountain offers much of the same rewards as its taller, well-known neighboring peaks. Much of the route to Haystack Mountain is along easily walkable Forest Service Roads, yet the last few hundred feet of elevation gain requires a steep scramble to the summit. Much of the mountain facing the Skykomish River Valley (and Highway 2) is heavily forested and initially might seem to not yield good views from its summit, yet the south side of the summit is actually a rocky slope offering spectacular views of the region. The route to Haystack Mountain, itself, can even offer many opportunities to enjoy scenery, see wildlife, and watch the affects of clearcut logging in the Cascades.
Upper Southwest Slope
Contrary to popular belief, a now-defunct fire lookout known as "Haystack Lookout" never actually resided at the summit of Haystack Mountain. That honor was given to the summit of Mount Sultan, located several miles west of Haystack Mountain.
From Gold Bar, Washington:
Head east on Highway 2 approximately four miles to Forest Service Road 62. Head south on Forest Service Road 62 (gravel road) for four miles, to the intersection with Forest Service Road 6221. Forest Service Road 6221 is unmarked and gated, but is the first road intersection (to the rightside) that occurs soon AFTER a concrete bridge (crossing Proctor Creek). Park at the gate, but it's recommended to not block the gate (in case the Forest Service needs access).
Old Overgrown Road Circling Haystack Mountain
From the gate, walk nearly two miles along Forest Service Road 6221 until a side-road forks to the right towards Haystack Mountain. This intersection is at approximately 2150' elevation (GPS coordinates approximately at N47 49.008 W121 40.447). Take this road to the right, which will begin to climb gradually as it circles around Haystack Mountain. At approximately 2450' elevation, the road forks. Take the road to the left, which continues to climb Haystack Mountain for a short distance further; the road to the right starts heading downhill away from the hillside.
Approaching Haystack Mountain...
The road will abruptly end at approximately 2500'-2550' elevation. From the end of the road, enter the trees and begin minor scrambling uphill. There is no "defined" route to the summit from this point, but the direction should be fairly obvious (i.e. keep heading "up"). Just after the small segment of trees, the route opens-up to a salal-filled slope. The slope steepens as the scramble towards the summit continues, and the landscape changes from mostly salal to mossy rockfaces. Above the steepest rockface scramble the route becomes less steep, and the summit rockface is only a short distance further.
View of Gunn Peak and Merchant Peak
Haystack Mountain's summit is at 2715' elevation. On a clear day, the rocky summit offers spectacular views of Mount Persis to the southeast, and Ten-Four Mountain to the southwest, and Gunn Peak, Merchant Peak, and Baring Mountain to the east, among other peaks. With a short jaunt through trees on the north side of the mountaintop, great views to the north, especially of Ragged Ridge, can also be seen.
The summit hike, roundtrip, is approximately 7-8 miles total.
No technical gear is needed for a summit attempt.
Forest Road 62 has a gated entrance. To see if/when gate will be open, please contact "Longview Fiber" (the company that controls access to Forest Road 62) at 360-770-1199.
Although no restrictions are listed anywhere, it has been suggested to have a Northwest Forest Pass in a vehicle if parking off of Forest Service Road 62 (so nobody mistakes the vehicle as something other than a vehicle for recreational activities).
Green Trails Map #142 (Index, WA) might prove useful, although not all side-roads along FS-62 and FS-6221 are shown on it.