Pilchuck Lookout

#17 VISITED: 10.13.18

Mount Pilchuck State Park

Pilchuck Lookout

#17

VISITED

10.13.18

Mount Pilchuck State Park

Built » 1942

Elevation » 5324 Ft

Hike » 5.4 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain » 2200 Ft

Mount Pilchuck Lookout is located on the western edge of the Cascades in Mount Pilchuck State Park. Only 35 miles east of Everett, the lookout offers stunning panoramic views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains, as well as various peaks of the Cascades, including Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, the Three Fingers, Mount Pugh, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Stuart, and Mount Index. On a clear day you can also see the town of Granite Falls and the city of Everett.

Mount Pilchuck was chosen as one of the first lookout sites in the Verlot Ranger District for its unobstructed views of the Stillaguamish, Pilchuck, and Skykomish River valleys. In 1918 a trail was built, and telephone wires were strung from Granite Falls to the summit. Twelve feet of rock were blasted from the top of the mountain to make room for a 12 x 12 foot cupola cabin that was ordered from the Millmade Construction Company in Portland, OR. In 1941 the cupola cabin was replaced with a 14 x 14 foot L-4 cabin, which was built around the original cabin. As construction on the new lookout progressed, the old lookout was torn down.

Mount Pilchuck Lookout was staffed by the Forest Service until 1957, when a ski resort was built on the mountain. Ownership of the lookout was transferred  to the state in 1960 when the adjoining area became a state park. In 1990 the lookout was restored by the Everett branch of the Mountaineers in conjunction with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. One hundred five people spent a total of 10,000 hours restoring the lookout, and in 1993 it was listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. Today the lookout is open to the public and serves as an interpretive site with historical photos and information displayed inside.

Above: Using a winch to transport materials and tools up to the lookout site around 1920 (L). Installing the lightning protection system in the original cupola cabin in 1921 (R).

My Hike » 10.13.18

Field Notes

The forest road leading to the trailhead is in really rough shape. The first mile and a half seems to be nothing but potholes. Then it evens out a bit before hitting another rough patch. Ironically, the last mile before the trailhead is paved, which is a welcome relief after the first 6 teeth rattling miles. I would not attempt this road in a low clearance vehicle.

Mount Pilchuck Lookout is available for overnight stays on a first-come, first-served basis. This is an extremely popular hike, so if you want to snag the lookout for the night, you’ll need to get there really early. I went on a sunny Saturday and there were easily 30 people hanging out on and around the lookout when I got there.

This is a very wet trail in places, and the north side of the mountain can be kind of icy even when the air temperature is not that cold. Coming down the mountain there were definitely a few places where I almost wiped out.

Directions

From Granite Falls, head northeast on Mountain Loop Highway for approximately 11.5 miles. Immediately after crossing the bridge, take a right onto Mt. Pilchuck Road. This quickly turns into unpaved NF-4220 and after 1.3 miles you will pass the Heather Lake Trailhead. Continue on for another 5.6 miles to the Mt. Pilchuck Trailhead and park in the parking lot.