Littler Pilchuck (not to be confused with Little Pilchuck) is a small, forested foothill located five miles E-SE of Granite Falls, WA. While not particularly attractive, it does happen to be one of my favorite winter mountain bike outings - although I may be biased, since the 'trailhead' is a mere 20 minute drive from my house. It is also a great place to soak up some quick rays when the Puget Sound inversion layer kicks in, as it did with a vengeance in January 2014. It will often be cold and foggy at my house, while just just a few miles away on Littler Pilchuck, the sun is shining brightly, with relatively warm temperatures. I have also used Littler Pilchuck for years as my own personal 'snow level gauge'. When its top is snow covered, I know the snow level is 2000' or less.
Littler Pilchuck from my living room
'Littler Pilchuck' was the designation given to this foothill in an old 'Footsore' book from my collection at home. While 'listsofjohn' refers to this peak as Worthy Hill, I'm going to defer to the late Harvey Manning
on this matter, since his books have been around for decades longer than listsofjohn.com
Update (10-23-16): Please see the bottom of the route section for important update information.
Note: While it is certainly possible to walk up Littler Pilchuck, it would make for a fairly long day. I am working on the assumption that most people who chose to visit this area will do so on a mountain bike.
From Granite Falls, follow the Menzel Lake Road SE for two miles, then turn left onto Scotty Road. Follow Scotty Road for 0.9 miles, until reaching a yellow gate. Do not be tempted to drive in if the gate is open - this gate is normally locked shut. The wide area immediately in front of the gate is a turn-around, and is plastered with 'No Parking' signs. Park on the side of the road just to the west of these signs (Elev. 650').
Parking for Littler Pilchuck. Don't be afraid of all the 'No Parking' signs - they are simply there to protect the turn-around. I have been parking here for years with no issues. Try to park off the road as much as possible, since trucks do use this road on occasion.
Littler Pilchuck route map. The north red line shows the normal route, while the south red line shows the optional route up the 'P5000' road (Theoretically, a 'Discovery Pass' is required at the P5000 road). The black tick marks on the P5000 route show old road bed that is inaccessible to bikes - it will be necessary to walk from this point if you choose this route. The west yellow line shows an optional trip up Chitwood Peak aka 'Scotty Hill' (1490'/720' prominence/good views), and the east yellow line shows an optional trip up 'Julia's Hill' (1810'/590' prominence/no views). The hill just to the east of Menzel Lake - 'Menzel Hill' (1470'/740' prominence/good views) can be approached from the gravel quarry on Scotty Road, or a gated road on the east side of Menzel Lake Road abeam the south end of Menzel Lake (marked as 549' on the USGS map).
Littler Pilchuck from Chitwood Peak aka 'Scotty Hill'. 'Julia's Hill' is in the foreground.
Littler Pilchuck from 'Menzel Hill'. 'Menzel Hill' (another one of my made up names) can be approached from Scotty Road, but the views are better if you approach from the Menzel Lake Road.
From the yellow gate on Scotty Road, continue up the road heading east. In 0.8 miles, you will arrive at a large gravel quarry. Stay on the mainline, which will circle around the quarry counterclockwise. Shortly after passing the quarry, you will arrive at a second gate, where signs are posted for users of this area.
Posted signs on the way to Littler Pilchuck
Continue north on the relatively flat mainline for 1.3 miles, at which point you will arrive at Chitwood Lake (Elev. 740').
Chitwood Lake on the way to Littler Pilchuck. Olo Mountain forms the backdrop.
Shortly after crossing the bridge at Chitwood Lake's outlet, the mainline will branch - take the right fork. Follow this fork, ignoring spurs, for three miles, at which point you will arrive at Hansen Lake (Elev. 1430'). The first mile will be relatively steep, and no one will blame you if you push your bike.
Southwest shore of Hansen Lake at base of Littler Pilchuck. Mount Pilchuck forms the backdrop to to the east.
The mainline will continue around Hansen Lake. Just after crossing the bridge over the outlet stream, a very faint path on the left side of the road will lead to an old decrepit 'dock' that someone built years ago. In this same location, on the right side of the road, you will notice an overgrown spur that has been decommissioned with tank traps. This is the link to the optional 'P5000' route. It is unfortunate that this section of road bed was torn up - at one time, the Scotty Road/P5000 loop made for an enjoyable mountain bike trip. You will notice a bit of survey tape if you follow this spur - this is because Snohomish County Search and Rescue
often comes in this way to collect wayward hikers who have come down Mount Pilchuck without the benefit of the summit trail.
East shore of Hansen Lake at base of Littler Pilchuck
After you have had your fill of Hansen Lake, backtrack the mainline about 500' northwest from the bridge over the outlet stream (marked as 1445' on the USGS map). Turn south onto the road leading to Littler Pilchuck's summit. This road will gain 750' of elevation in the next 1.3 miles. Your options are: 1. Lock up the bike and walk 2. Push the bike for 1.3 miles 3. 'Lance Armstrong' your way to the top (without the performance enhancing drugs, of course).
Littler Pilchuck from Mount Pilchuck. Red line shows the final push to the top. Hansen Lake can be seen at lower right.
After traveling 1.3 miles by whatever means worked best for you, the road will split as you arrive at the top of the ridge between Littler Pilchuck's north and south summits. The spur to the right is of little interest, so take the left fork. After several hundred feet, a spur will turn off to the left - you will be returning to this spur to get the big views to the east. For now, continue up the main road for another 100'. At this point, you will have expansive, 180 degree views to the west.
Puget Sound inversion layer from top of Littler Pilchuck. On this particular day, the temperature at my house was 35, with miserable fog, while the conditions on the summit were upper 50's and blazing sunshine. On clear days, expect great views of the Puget Sound lowlands.
If you decide to continue up the main summit road to the top of the south summit, you will arrive at a large communication tower. Nothing too exciting, but it may satisfy your curiosity if you're used to seeing it from I-5 between Marysville and Everett.
Communication tower on top of Littler Pilchuck
After you have had enough of the west viewpoint, go back down to the spur 100' to the north. Follow this spur several hundred feet to its end, where you will be treated to a 180 degree view to the east. The west flank of Mount Pilchuck absolutely dominates the view here, but you will be able to pick out a number of other peaks, particularly towards the southeast.
East view from top of Littler Pilchuck. From left to right: Olo, Baker (barely), Ditney, Green, Whitehorse, Three Fingers, Pilchuck, Bald, Little Greider, Greider, Static, Ragged Ridge, Stickney, Zekes, Index, Persis, Explorer Hill.
Little Pilchuck from top of Littler Pilchuck. While their names are sometimes used interchangeably, 'Little Pilchuck' refers to the 4600' peak 0.5 miles W/NW of Mount Pilchuck's summit.
Update (1-7-15): I did a little extra exploring today, and found a nice south-facing viewpoint just east of the communication towers. Just before reaching the towers, locate a badly overgrown spur on the left (east) side of the road. Follow this spur, or the woods adjacent to it, for 1500' E-SE. Here you will find an old log landing, which provides nice east through southwest views.
Littler Pilchuck south pano. Photo taken at N48 03.023 W121 51.610
Update (10-23-16): Good news! The Scotty Road logging road system and the P5000 logging road system have been reconnected. It is now very feasible (in fact, probably recommended) to approach Littler Pilchuck from the P5000 trailhead. Approaching from the P5000 road is actually a little shorter, and there is plentiful parking (Discovery Pass required). Of course, there is now the option of doing the full P5000/Scotty Road loop for those who are so inclined. Please see the map below - note that the new connector road is slightly higher and west of the old connector road. Warning - Expect significant logging operations on the southeast side of Littler Pilchuck in 2017.
Updated route map for Littler Pilchuck (Worthy Hill)
A parking pass is not required to park at this 'trailhead'. If the gate is open, yield to any truck traffic you may encounter.
When to Climb
Any month of the year, as long as the snow level is above 2000'.
Camping is not allowed in this area. See photo above for rules when visiting this area.