Red Top Lookout

#5 VISITED: 10.13.15

Okanogan / Wenatchee Nat. Forest

Red Top Lookout




Okanogan / Wenatchee Nat. Forest

Built » 1952

Elevation » 5360 Ft

Hike » 1.5 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain » 350 Ft

Red Top Lookout is located on Teanaway Ridge on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. At an elevation of 5,361 feet, Red Top Mountain looms as the highest point in the area, making it an ideal location for a fire lookout. A short, steep trail leads to the lookout, which provides magnificent panoramic views of the Stuart Range, Teanaway Ridge, Chelan and Entiat Mountains, Mount Rainier, and even Mount Adams on a clear day.

The lookout was first built in 1928 as a D-6 cupola cabin, and was rebuilt in 1952 as a 14’x14′ L-4 cabin atop a 10-foot treated timber tower. The lookout was staffed until the 1970s, when it was abandoned by the Forest Service. In 1995 the Friends of Red Top Mountain began a two year restoration project of the lookout, and it was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register in 1997. Today the lookout is staffed by volunteers during the summer months and serves as an interpretive site for visitors.

Red Top Lookout is perhaps best well known for the agate beds located just north of the lookout on the Teanaway Ridge Trail. This is a popular spot to look for agates, geodes, and thunder eggs, and gets busy on summer weekends.

Above: The original cupola lookout in 1939.

My Hike » 10.13.15

Field Notes

You will definitely spend more time driving to the Red Top trailhead than you will hiking the trail itself. While you’re in the area, check out Liberty, WA, which bills itself as a “living ghost town”, or Blewett, WA, an actual ghost town. Both are off of Highway 97.

The trail to Red Top Lookout is a loop. When you come to a fork in the trail a short distance past the parking area, take the left path up to the lookout. On your return trip, follow the ridge out past the lookout and veer to the right. This path takes you down a series of switchbacks and offers a view of the lookout from a new angle.

There are a large number of Western Larches that grow in the area surrounding Red Top Lookout. In the fall they turn bright yellow and the hillsides become a beautiful patchwork of green and gold.


From Cle Elum, head east on WA-970 for 18.6 miles (WA-970 turns into WA-97 North after 9.7 miles). Just after  the Mineral Creek Campground, turn left onto Forest Service Road 9738. Continue on 9738 for 2.6 miles, then turn left onto 9702, following the sign for Red Top Mountain. Continue following 9702 for about 4.5 miles to reach the parking area.