“A very popular run to the lookout tower perched on Mount Pilchuck.”
— Eric Ashley
A Recreation Pass is required at the trailhead.
A steady workout that's worth every step when you get to bask in the views from the summit. This is an immensely popular run, so you'll have plenty of company as you contend with the abundant roots, steps, rocks, and boulder fields along the way. You can even spend the night in the lookout if there's room.
Need to Know
- The trail can be quite popular so an earlier start is recommended. There is a pit-toilet at the trailhead but no source of water.
- This trail is best enjoyed in summer/fall. Snow can linger near the summit through July.
The climbing is steady, and the rocks and roots are endless. Throw in some scrambling, and this is a hard trail to maintain any kind of pace.
From the parking area, the trail starts as a broad gravel path through old-growth trees. The smooth-going is interrupted by a stream flowing over the trail. If your rock-hopping skills are good and the water level is cooperative, you should be able to keep your feet dry.
Soon the trail narrows and roots begin to enter the tread, giving runners a taste of the uneven terrain that the day has in store. Ahead, the trail becomes so strewn with rocks that it feels more like a stream bed through the lush forest. Fortunately, occasional stairs do make the going easier.
The forest begins to pull back at the first of several boulder fields. Some of these fields are more difficult to cross than others, and briefly losing track of the actual trail is common. As the trail continues, it heads north around the ridge line to an area with more exposure and striking views. Ahead, a trail cribbing has been laid through a perpetually damp area. The trail shortly begins to switchback toward the ridge above. This is one of the first spots where you'll be able to appreciate the towering shale that forms the summit.
Boulder fields, loads of rock, and the occasional scramble are the norm from here to the top including a long, craggy stretch beneath the ridge line that forms the summit. Keep an eye out for a distinct rock fin bordering the trail that signals the "quarter mile to go" mark.
Finally, the lookout comes into view. But reaching the shelter requires a final boulder scramble and short ladder climb. Once you've reached the inviting platform, enjoy! The hard workout you've just completed will fade away under the onslaught of such expansive views. And once you're done looking outside, take a moment to look inside the lookout for some informative signs on the area and the building's history.
When it's time to head back, simply retrace your steps back to the parking area. Or, if there's room, and you've brought the necessary gear, prepare to enjoy an overnight stay in one of Washington's most popular lookouts.
History & Background
The lookout was constructed in 1918 and operated through 1960. In 1990, it was rebuilt by the Everett Mountaineers who continue to maintain it.