Fire Lookout Hikes
For hikers who love big views, there is nothing better than a trek up to a fire lookout. Hikers know that a fire lookout usually means unobstructed 360 degree views from the top.
More than one hundred fire lookouts still stand across Washington, and thirty are still actively used for firefighting. Many are lovingly tended by volunteers and are still open to the public, while others have fallen into disuse.
We've selected ten fire lookouts to share with you. Some are popular, and others not so much. If you like these, there are more to be found in our Hiking Guide by typing "lookout" in the keyword search. Most should be accessible in August and September, but always check conditions first. See our ranger station links here.
Location: North Cascades - Mt. Baker
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1320' to 6521'
Winchester Mountain is a stunning hike from start to finish. With fields of heather, sparkling lakes and views that will impress even the most seasoned hiker, this short and fairly easy hike should be on your bucket list. A dangerous snowfield keeps it off-limits until late summer and early fall, but then it is open for business! Some hikers are even lucky enough to snag the lookout for an overnighter. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: North Cascades
Round Trip: 12.5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 5100' to 6000'
This is a summit you've got to really want to get to. With more than 5000 feet elevation gain in just over six miles, you might think you're in some kind of switchback hell. However, the switchbacks do relieve some of the stress coming down. Overnighters may want to camp at Sourdough Creek, about 4.5 miles in. That's the last water on the trek. Despite the tough climb, you will be well rewarded. The alpine meadows are beautiful and the views of the North Cascades and down into the reservoirs of Ross & Diablo Lakes are well-worth the effort. You'll just wish you could stay up there forever. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Hidden Lake Lookout
Location: North Cascades
Round Trip: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3260' to 6890'
Where there is a lookout, you know there are views. But the views from some fire lookouts are simply more superlative than others. Hidden Lake Lookout, built in 1931, is certainly one of those - tethered somehow to an enormous granite outcrop with the full expanse of the North and Central Cascades all around. But wait, the hike is not too shabby either! Meadows, rocky alpine tundra, fabulous ridge-walking and a view straight down of its namesake, Hidden Lake. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: Highway 2
Round Trip: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 850' to 1700'
A short climb just off Hwy. 2 near Index offers splendid views of the major peaks in that area - Mt. Index and Mt. Persis are just two. With its southern exposure, this is a good choice for times when other trails are snowed in - some years you can hike up here in January! Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: Stevens Pass - East
Round Trip: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 2600'' to 6237'
You can actually hike to this lookout from two different directions. From FR 6910 and the Round Mountain trail, described in our Hiking Guide, the hike to the top is shorter, but marred by the interference of motorcycles. Or hike via Merritt Lake, which is longer but provides a nice overnight opportunity at the lake. From the top are views of Lake Wenatchee, Glacier Peak and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. If you're lucky, you might see mountain goats and ripe huckleberries. The lookout, when open, is newly refurbished. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: Snoqualmie Pass
Round Trip: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3800' to 5600'
Map: Green Trails #207 Snoqualmie Pass
This one is a thigh burner! It's popular, but tough - a relentless climb for the entire four miles. Bring water, as this trail is dry. The good news is that the summit views are breathtaking and there are plenty of pretty wildflowers to keep you going forward when your head is focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Red Top Lookout
Location: Cle Elum area - Teanaways
Round Trip: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 350' to 5364'
Season: June - October
There are few mountaintops in Washington that are accessible by such a short and easy trail. This hike is featured in Best Hikes with Young Children, and is an excellent choice for other hikers too. Kids in particular will delight in actually climbing a mountain and will be encouraged along the way by the fire lookout perched on top. In mid-to-late summer, the lookout is manned and you may be allowed inside. But the views are just as good from the ground. What's more, this area is dotted with agates and you may be lucky enough to find one! Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: Mount Rainier National Park
Round Trip: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 800' to 7200'
It's amazing how many fine lookout towers are accessible with so little effort. Fremont Lookout is one of those - with only 800 feet of elevation gain. By starting at Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park, you let your car do most of the uphill work. With amazing views in every direction, this is the perfect destination for a crystal clear day. From Mt. Rainier to Mt. Baker, you can't go wrong on this hike. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: South Cascades - Gifford Pinchot N.F.
Round Trip: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400' to 5650'
The High Rock fire lookout is still staffed in the summer, which means you can usually go inside. The views of Mt. Rainier are some of the best around, and the hike up is a steady climb but not overly difficult. Go early or late for the best photography. Read more in our Hiking Guide.
Location: SE Washington - Palouse
Round Trip: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 987' to 6387'
Hike to one of the highest spots in all of Southeast Washington and spin around up top for a fabulous 360 degree view of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. The best season to visit is late spring, when the hillside is green and carpeted in wildflowers. It's also a treat in the fall, but do note that it's a favorite area for hunting and the trailhead gets snowed in early. One highlight is the spring-fed log watering trough just below the butte. Read more in our Hiking Guide.