We all know Mount Pilchuck and love it. The mountain this time of year is a...
One vertical mile above Puget Sound, high atop the rocky summit of Mount Pilchuck, sits the most crowded abandoned fire lookout in the entire Pacific Northwest. A favorite hike for many, Mount Pilchuck is bustling all summer long as the promise of spectacular views within a short drive of Seattle brings large crowds up its west flank from dawn to dusk.
Don't let the foot traffic keep you away though – this is a classic hike and we highly recommend checking it out. Even without a view, exploring the restored lookout itself is well worth the effort to reach the top.
The trail begins where an old skiing lodge used to stand. Closed for more than 30 years, the forest (under joint state and national park management) has done a spectacular job reclaiming the land as its own. Follow the well-marked trail as it gains elevation gently for the first mile to a large talus field with views that hint at what is to come.
The trail then swoops east for a half-mile and then turns south and begins to climb in earnest toward a saddle between the true summit and its neighboring sister, Little Pilchuck. From the saddle, the trail cuts a nice line to the summit ridge through huge boulder fields to a final short scramble up to the lookout. Climb that ladder and soak up the views in every direction (Rainier! Mount Dickerman! Mount Baker! Glacier Peak!), marvel at the restored lookout, and enjoy the company of your fellow hikers.
Permits & Tips
Northwest Forest Pass required. Pit toilet available at the trailhead. Please note that the upper reaches of this trail are often snow-covered until late July or August, and as such, you'll want to be prepared with the right gear and route-finding equipment. Dogs allowed on leash. Stop in at the Verlot Public Service Center for passes, route information, and a cheerful smile.
How to get there
Head North on I-5 to Exit 194 and merge onto US-2 E.
After two miles, exit left onto WA-204.
Stay on WA-204 for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens.
Turn right onto WA-92 to Granite Falls.
In Granite Falls, turn left onto N Alder Ave and continue onto the Mountain Loop Highway.
You'll hit the Verlot Public Service Center (get your maps and passes) in 11 miles.
One mile further – just after crossing the metal bridge over the Stillaguamish River – turn right onto Mount Pilchuck Road (signed). Follow for seven miles to the parking lot at the end of the road.