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Mount Pilchuck

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Rising 1 mile above the surrounding countryside and perched on the western edge of the Cascades, Pilchuck packs some of the best panoramic viewing to be found in these parts. From its historical and restored fire lookout, scan the horizon - from Rainier to Baker, Glacier Peak to the Olympics, Seattle to the San Juans - and every jagged, rugged, and snow-capped peak lining the Mountain Loop Highway. One of the most popular hikes in Washington, Pilchuck is a "social mountain." Expect company and enjoy the camaraderie.

While not an overly difficult hike, scores of hikers each year end up injuring themselves or worse on this little mountain each season. Why? Its easy accessibility and proximity to the Greater Pugetopolis make it an attractive destination for ill-prepared neophytes. Snow often lingers late, making an easy hike in August potentially dangerous in June. And while the distance isn't great, parts of the trail are rocky, muddy, and slippery-not a problem for experienced hikers, but potentially troublesome for others.

The hike starts on what was once a service road to ski slopes on the mountain. Skirt the base of the rapidly growing-in former ski area, entering mature forest of hemlock and yellow cedar. Hop across a small creek, and at 0.25 mile enter Mount Pilchuck State Park. Much of the mountain, as well as Pinnacle Lake, are contained within a 1900-acre Washington State Parks property. The trail is jointly managed with the U.S. Forest Service. And thanks to the Washington Trails Association and its volunteers, a good portion of it has been recently reconstructed and reinforced with solid cribbing and steps.

At 0.7 mile briefly pass through a scree slope that offers a small scenic taste of what lies ahead. The trail rounds the mountain's northwest shoulder, breaks out into heather and granite gardens, and then ratchets up the climbing. The rocky summit comes into view-and so do scores of other summits. The way angles for a 4700-foot saddle between the summit and Little Pilchuck and then wraps around the mountain's south side. After a scenic traverse along the summit ridge, the trail heads back toward the summit block, ending with a boulder scramble for the final 100 feet to the attractive restored lookout.

You can easily while away time in the lookout, a virtual museum with its many historical exhibits. But no doubt the outside attraction-one of the finest views in the Cascades-has captured your attention. Peer north to Three Fingers, Baker, Shuksan, and the Stillaguamish Valley and east to Glacier, Big Four, Dickerman, Index, and the Spada Reservoir. Rainier dominates the southern sky. On the western front, it's Seattle, Everett, and Puget Sound with its myriad islands and inlets, all capped off by the Olympic Mountains. What a view!
Driving Directions:

From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east. One mile beyond the Verlot Public Service Center, turn right onto graveled Forest Road 42 immediately after crossing the "Blue Bridge." Drive 7 miles to the trailhead at the road end (elev. 3100 ft). Privy available.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 511 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Mount Pilchuck — Apr 13, 2014 — WAPilot
Day hike
Issues: Road to trailhead inaccessible
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Mt. Pilchuck road is still closed for driving at Heather Lake Trailhead #701....
Mt. Pilchuck road is still closed for driving at Heather Lake Trailhead #701.
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Mount Pilchuck — Jan 04, 2014 — staceyinseattle
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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The road up to Mount Pilchuck is currently closed. Parked at the Heather Lake trail head and walked...
The road up to Mount Pilchuck is currently closed. Parked at the Heather Lake trail head and walked approximately 6 miles up to the Pilchuck parking lot. There was snow on the ground after about 2 miles, very easy hike with numerous waterfalls visible from the road. A lot of snow on the actual Mount Pilchuck trail, hiking up to the first mile marker was fairly easy but there was deeper snow between the first and second mile marker (a foot or two). We had to stop not that long after the second mile marker as we couldn't physically climb up one of the snow banks. There were footprints of someone who had done the hike before us that successfully made it up.
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Mount Pilchuck — Nov 28, 2013 — D.Baxter
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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It was 32 degrees when I turned off the highway but 40 at the trailhead! No snow on the road until ...
It was 32 degrees when I turned off the highway but 40 at the trailhead! No snow on the road until less than a mile from the parking and then only a stripe in the center. Any car should make it just fine though snow does block some parking.

An ice skating rink until near the creek crossing but then the trail is mostly snow free until it exits treeline. Packed down snow the rest of the way. Slippery, microspikes were very helpful. No issues with route finding, no need for snowshoes. Another nice inversion day!

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Mount Pilchuck — Nov 24, 2013 — Mr Hound
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Some snow on the road as you near the the trailhead but plenty of low clearance cars were able to ma...
Some snow on the road as you near the the trailhead but plenty of low clearance cars were able to make it up.

First 100 yards of trail were covered in a thick slippery sheet of ice, but the trail turns to rocks and mud after that. Snow is patchy at first but completely covers the trail from the north face on.

Crampons and axe weren't needed, but I recommend trekking poles and sturdy boots. The snow is packed down but not slippery, and I never post-holed despite weighing 175 lbs and carrying another 30 on my back.
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Mount Pilchuck — Nov 23, 2013 — kdmoore
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Beautiful day to be out on the trail! Got a late start at 1:15 pm and made it to the lookout with pl...
Beautiful day to be out on the trail! Got a late start at 1:15 pm and made it to the lookout with plenty of time to spare before sunset. Lots of people out on the trail. Saw sunset on the hike back down over the sound and Mount Rainier- spectacular! It was very hard to walk away and keep hiking. Amazing day!

Conditions: Snow starts in the parking lot and continues to the summit. Very icy start to the trail- solid sheet of ice. Easily able to complete the hike with some sturdy boots and poles. Snow up out of the forest to the summit was very dry and powdery in many spots and chunky with ice in other spots.
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Mount Pilchuck by Day Hike.jpg
Lookout photo by Norm Buckley taken Sep. 11, 2009.
WTA worked here!
2010
Location
Mount Pilchuck (#700)
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest - Darrington Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain 2200 ft
Highest Point 5324 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Granite Falls No. 109

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerMount Pilchuck
48.0701833333 -121.814733333
  • State Park
  • Trail Work 2010
(48.0702, -121.8147) Open in new window
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