Mount Pilchuck is one of the most loved fire towers in Washington State with views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker.
This blog post covers how to access the trail, general stats, hiking the trail, and if Mount Pilchuck should be included in the 100 Classic Hikes of Washington Book.
Trail Completed on July 29th, 2022
Table of Contents
Mount Pilchuck Trailhead
Mount Pilchuck is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, and Stillaguamish tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Region: Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft
When to go: July – September
Pass/Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Dogs Allowed?: Yes* See notes below
Facilities: Bathroom at Trailhead
Getting to Mount Pilchuck
The trailhead is located at the end of a relatively long forest service road. Taken slowly, any car would be able to drive on this road. The trailhead parking lot is large and has two pit toilets. On weekends it is imperative to get to the trailhead early to get a spot in the parking lot instead of along the side of the forest service road, unless you want to add additional mileage and elevation gain.
Hiking Mount Pilchuck
The trail begins with a gentle grade through dense forest and bubbling streams. You hike past large boulders that are dispersed throughout the forest before coming across your first boulder field that breaks you out of the forest.
Back into the forest, a quick switchback takes you through the boulder field for another half of a mile. This is the cleared mountain side that you’ll be summiting to get to the lookout. The exposed slope has a variety of terrain from dirt paths, to rock, to sheer rock face. The path is steep, but on a clear day the view of the lookout and cascade mountains keep you going to the top.
Eventually you will reach a wooded area. This is the last push before the lookout boulder field.
Not sure what to bring hiking? Ten Essentials of Hiking
The rock scramble to the lookout has no clear path and requires both hands and feet to navigate through the terrain. Once you make it to the ladder, the 360 views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and the Olympics from the fire tower are now in sight.
The fire tower has a book for you to mark your visit! Make sure to sign your name and date in the book and take some time to enjoy the maps of the mountains that have been placed within the tower.
There are lots of rocks to sit on and enjoy lunch if the tower gets busy.
On your climb down you will likely come across a number of hikers on their way up. Remember that they have the right away!
Should Mount Pilchuck be a 100 Classic Hike?
This should absolutely be a classic hike of Washington! The preservation of these fire lookouts commemorate a piece of history in Washington. This classic hike is visited largely by people all around.
Of all the fire lookouts I have hiked in Washington, I found this to be a challenging, accessible, and extremely rewarding hike. For a beginner hiker this might be challenging but, with one foot in front of the other, it is a manageable hike with the right preparation, expectations, and time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and would love to complete it again for a chance to watch the sunset in the fire lookout.
Protect Mount Pilchuck
This trail is extremely busy and it is imperative that everyone does their part to protect and preserve this trail for all to enjoy. Remember to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace when visiting this area and all other areas. For more information on check out Leave No Trace.