Clocking in at two miles round-trip, this hike might seem like the perfect leg-stretcher on the way home from adventures in Eastern Washington. But be warned, it’s a quad-burner!
Located along Highway 2, just on the outskirts of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, is this -short-but-sweet hike, ending at an old fire lookout. The hike actually reminded me a lot of Oyster Dome–a small parking area right off the road, intense climb in the woods up and away from road noise, and burning legs. After we self-registered at a kiosk, the climb began, immediately. Despite being close to the road, the woodsy trail got quiet, quickly. It also got steep!
We started taking breaks early, the afternoon heat high. I was hoping to do this hike as training for Mt. St. Helens. The trail had a few rocks to climb over, but was mostly just steep, right away, with long jaunts traversing before switchbacks. As we climbed higher, massive boulders bigger than houses began emerging from the soil and ferns. However, with it only being about a mile each way, I had to focus on huffing up the trail if I wanted it to be good conditioning. Mama Boots encouraged me to go on without her.
Naturally, as soon as I guiltily did, the trail leavened out a bit. Once this happens, you are super close! My eyes eagerly scanned the treeline, looking for gaps. Once you do emerge from the trees, keep your eyes on the trail. Footing here was a bit uneven. There was a small ledge facing westward, but if you think that view is good, just wait until you are 89 steps up higher! I backtracked to Mama Boots, wanting us to experience the lookout together, and we climbed up the last few steps to the base. There is a picnic table here for anyone wanting a rest or those fearful of going up the stairs (I admittedly thought about ‘The Big One’ hitting while up on the lookout).
There has been a lookout at this location since 1925, although there’s been quite a few rebuilds and restorations since then. We had been informed that there were people who had rented the lookout for the night (can be rented in advance from May 1-September 30, go to recreation.gov for more details), so that we could only go to the next-to-top floor platform. However, this area is unique, as most fire lookouts have a catwalk around the lookout, not a shaded deck underneath. I admit, I was so disheartened by all of the graffiti here that it dampened my spirits a bit, even with the view. The sweeping landscape includes Baring Mountain, Mt. Index, and Bridal Veil falls.
The journey back to your car goes even quicker than the journey up. Not counting breaks and seeing the view at the top, we were up and down in about an hour! Due to proximity to Seattle and Everett, this hike is great conditioning for steep hikes–but I would recommend either hitting it on the way back west as a leg-stretcher, or combining it with something like Heybrook Ridge to get your gas money’s worth.
Distance: 2.6 miles according to WTA (guidebooks say 2.2 miles, my GPS said 2.1)
Elevation: 850 feet
Parking: No pass required
Bathrooms: One open-air toilet at the top–follow signs to find
Best Beer Bet: There’s a brewery in Sultan and some options in Monroe, but many more options in Snohomish