Hike to lookout tower on Mount Pilchuck

Saturday September 23rd 2006

Since it promised to be a glorious day, with clear blue skies, we decided to hike up to the lookout tower on top of Mount Pilchuck and treat ourselves to some 360 views. This is a popular hike, despite the Difficult rating and the 2400 feet of elevation gain. The distance is only 3 miles one way, and the views are stupendous, so of course everyone wants to get to the summit. We saw people of all ages on the trail, and pretty much every species of dog. The young kids are tough, trudging all the way to the top - so anyone can make it if they want to it. Check out my pictures - this is worth seeing for yourself. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, and though it had only about 10 vehicles when we started, it was completely full when we returned. I think it is neat so many people get out to enjoy the Seattle wilderness.

The trailhead requires you to drive 7 miles off of the highway - the first 5 miles of this are a dirt road, but the last two miles up to the parking lot are paved. At one point there was a ski lift to the summit of Mount Pilchuk. I don't think anyone actually skied down Mount Pilchuck; I am guessing that the lift was used to carry sightseers up to the summit during the summer months for some long distance scenery. In present times, the lift is gone, but we did see a pile of old wood at one point along the trail, apparently from an old support tower.

It had rained the night before we hiked up, so the bottom portion of the trail had some muddy patches. The trail is in good shape, but with so many feet treading over it, the mud gets churned up and conditions get a little sloppy. But once you get up beyond the trees, the trail is pretty rocky. This is a good trail for hiking boots, not sneakers. There are lots of stretches of boulders and rocks. Indeed, the final ladder up into the lookout tower can only be reached by climbing over some giant size boulders to reach the base of the ladder. The top of the mountain has plenty of views, so it can handle the crowds - you can see in all directions. I tried Photoshop on a couple of pictures, to see if I could eliminate some of the haze, but I don't know enough about using that software to really extract a distant blurry image.

We saw couple of parties backpacking up to the top, with tents. Clearly they intended to stay the night. It must be pretty awesome up there on a warm still night - no doubt the stars are amazing. There isn't any water up at the top, so that would have be carried in too. The lookout tower must have been built with materials brought in via helicopter. There are a number of informative pictures and stories posted inside the shelter, but I did not have time to read them all. What I liked was looking out over a vast landscape, trying to figure out where the landmarks are. It was neat when someone pointed out downtown Seattle.

I took a series of panorama pictures from the lookout tower. Eventually, I will try to label some of the peaks that appear in these photos.

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