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Sauk Mountain

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Enjoy amazing views of the Sauk and Skagit river basins, and that's just from the trailhead parking lot! From the summit of this former fire lookout the views are beyond amazing. They're superlatively stupendous! And the wildflowers. Tread this way in mid-July for a floral show second to none. Short and sweet and just a tad bit steep, a score-plus set of switchbacks sets you on your way to this scenic summit.

A familiar landmark in the Skagit Valley, with its hogback summit and verdant meadow-draped western slopes, Sauk Mountain is recognizable from I-5. It's a popular hike, best avoided on sunny summer weekends.

Starting at the edge of a meadow, views begin immediately and never let up. Virtually the entire way is in the open-great if there's a refreshing breeze, stifling on hot afternoons. And because the first half of the hike is entirely within meadows, biting, buzzing, driving-you-crazy bugs are legion. Hey, somebody has to pollinate all those pretty blossoms.

Pass by an A-frame privy, one of my favorite outback outhouses in the Cascades. Enjoy a short stretch to warm up and then commence switching and backing up Sauk's steep west face. Harebell, lupine, daisy, parsley, thimbleberry, paintbrush, thistle, columbine, fireweed - how many different blossoms can you spot?

The way steadily gains elevation up the herbaceous hillside flush with scads of scurrying grasshoppers. Brushy at times, the trail sports hidden marmot holes and other potential ankle twisters. And be careful not to kick rocks below onto other Sauk summit seekers. You'll occasionally and briefly dip into cool forest groves, escaping the sun. Then it's back into the open.

After 1.3 miles of steady climbing, crest the hogback ridge (elev. 5200 ft). Pause and take in the amazing views south to the confluence of the Sauk and Skagit, the Finney Block, Glacier Peak, and Whitehorse. Look east to the Helen Buttes, the Pickets, Teebone Ridge, and the big green valley cut by the Cascade River.

Now skirting below crags, the trail turns north to head for the summit. At 1.5 miles, come to a junction. The trail right loses 1200 feet on its way to Sauk Lake. Stay left and soon you'll be able to see Sauk Lake twinkling below in an emerald bowl between Sauk and Bald mountains.

The final stretch traverses a somewhat rocky area where lingering snowfields may warrant some caution. Once on the 5537-foot summit, the same summit that beatnik poet Philip Whalen worked on in 1953, find a nook and grab your journal. Scan the horizons and let inspiration fly. Take in Mounts Baker, Blum, Shuksan, and Tomyhoi, the Pickets, the Olympics, even Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. Too many more to count, but plenty to enjoy.
Driving Directions:

From Burlington (exit 230 on I-5), head east on the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) for 36.5 miles to the Rockport State Park boundary at milepost 96 (7 miles east of Concrete and 1.5 miles west of the junction with SR 530). Turn left onto Forest Road 1030 (signed "Sauk Mountain Road"). Follow this steep, washboard-prone road for 7.5 miles to a fork. Bear right and continue 0.25 mile to the trailhead (elev. 4350 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 127 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Sauk Mountain — Nov 22, 2013 — austineats
Overnight
Issues: Snow on trail | Avalanche danger
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Our hopes were to catch a glimpse of comet Ison and spend a night out side too boot. The road up to ...
Our hopes were to catch a glimpse of comet Ison and spend a night out side too boot. The road up to the parking lot was snow free a large portion of the way. We walked the last milea nd a half or so.

The views to the south were quite nice, Pilchuck, Ilabot, Rainier in the distance... The Skagit River was especially spectacular winding through the farm land.

Before sunrise we hiked out of the lot with the intent of climbing Sauk. NOT. The trail was easy enough to follow but the open slopes were near a boiler plate mix of grass and avalanche scoured snow. We made it a couple hundred yards and then retreated with our tails between our legs wishing that we had our ice axes and crampons.
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Sauk Mountain — Oct 29, 2013 — thebrink
Day hike
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As we passed through Darrington on our way to Rockport the temperature was twenty nine degrees on a ...
As we passed through Darrington on our way to Rockport the temperature was twenty nine degrees on a fine clear day. By the time we were on the trail it was in the high thirties. The fall color has been pretty well wringed out of the vegetation on the mountain but the views can't be beat as we worked the many switchbacks up to the top.

The trail is in good condition overall but there are a few places where the tread has been eroded down the side. We ran into a bit of snow and ice on the last stretch of trail on the ridge above Sauk Lake and even though we brought traction devices they were not needed.
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Sauk Mountain — Oct 25, 2013 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
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Sauk Mountain is now on my "top-ten list" - it is remarkable! Given that the Puget Sound valley was...
Sauk Mountain is now on my "top-ten list" - it is remarkable! Given that the Puget Sound valley was blanketed in thick fog for the tenth day in a row, I selected this hike as my great escape and could not have been happier.

This road was in good shape until the final half mile but I had no problems with even that section. I climbed out of the clouds half way up.

The switchbacking trail is visible from the trailhead and is as dizzying to hike as it is to view. I was at the top in just over an hour - despite stopping several times to gaze at the ever-expanding views of the surrounding mountains. I had the top to myself and enjoyed naming the surrounding peaks - many good old friends! On my way back down, I ran into several friendly parties including a couple out on their first adventure post-baby - what a great one to select!

I look forward to returning with family, friends, and older children looking for an exciting first summit!
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Sauk Mountain, Sauk Lake — Oct 16, 2013 — Jay L
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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As many times I have hiked this, I have never hiked to Sauk Lake. Started out at the trailhead at 10...
As many times I have hiked this, I have never hiked to Sauk Lake. Started out at the trailhead at 10:30am with clear skies. The junction with the Sauk Lake trail is well signed and went to the right at the junction. The alpine meadows have prime fall color right now. The trail to the lake is more of a path and as I got closer to the lake I started running into snow. This side of the mountain does not get a lot of sun and soon the snow was about 2 feet deep. The last snowfield before the lake I didn't try to cross, the snow looked unstable and it was in an avalanche chute, there was no snow around the lake. I got close, but it was not to be this year. Hiked back to the top of the mountain and found the snow there only a few inches deep and was easy to navigate with my boots and poles were not needed. With the weather holding its probably good to do this hike later in the morning after the snow thaws. No snow on the switchbacks heading up the mountain and not much snow in the meadows. The snow I ran into going to the lake was on the last part of the trail at the lower elevations. Great views as always, a great hike to do while the weather holds.
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Sauk Mountain — Oct 15, 2013 — parisrobin
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Previous trip reports inspired me. There are great photo ops from Hwy20 of Sauk Mountain showing off...
Previous trip reports inspired me. There are great photo ops from Hwy20 of Sauk Mountain showing off Fall colors. The street sign says "Sauk Mountain Dr", but the sign on Hwy 20 just before the Left turn to it says "Sauk Mountain Rd". I was somewhat spooked by the road entrance sign and hunters on bikes and 4wheelers along the way, but once I got to the trailhead I realized that this was a user-friendly hiking area. Hurray--an unlocked privy, clean and equipped.

On this a Tuesday, I started my hike at 1:30pm with 4 cars in parking lot, returned at 5pm with one car in lot. Passed 7 hikers up and one coming down. I took my time going up, probably 2 hrs. I do believe that I made it in down in 45 minutes.

T-shirts and grasshoppers in October;lite cardigan at the summit; dry trails. Very foggy/hazy conditions though sun is full out. Reaching the summit at 3pmish helped for some photo ops--less haze. However, 3/4 of lake in shade with a sun washed backdrop. Within another hour the complete shade down below provided great photo ops of lake.

Twenty-six switch backs!--really?--sounds bad, but not really. Every two switch backs I put two tiny stones in my pocket. Last night at home I counted 21--perhaps one broke into pieces and I believe the last 3-4 switchbacks at the top I did not record.--too busy, too happy, too wonderful.

It is such a reward for your efforts to get to the point where you round the bend and the views on the other side of the mountain open up. Panoramas of the mountain range and red/yellow/orange fall colors on the slopes next to the trail.

To summit you will have to walk on some snow (a few inches "deep"), but it is melted and pounded down by other hikers. I've estimated three stretches of snow covered trail: 10 yd + 50 yd + 100 yd.--Poles are helpful, but I watched an "older" couple coming down without this aid and they seemed quite at ease. At the very top there is no snow. And the rocky trail approach to the top is also snowfree. I saw mosquitoes swarming at the top (not a problem).

There was alot of eagle and crow activity around this mountain. I am not sure why. At the summit I heard alot of cute small birds in the trees, but was unable to photograph them. I heard marmots whistling, but didn't see them.

I highly recommend this hike. I want to come back in spring/summer to see the flowers and go to the lake. It is an interesting viewpoint to observe mountain peaks, nearby buttes, rivers, and landscapes.
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mt baker sauk mtn mike c.jpg
Mt. Baker from the Sauk Mountain trail. Photo by Mike C.
Location
Sauk Mountain (#613)
North Cascades -- West Slope
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - Mount Baker District
Statistics
Roundtrip 4.2 miles
Elevation Gain 1190 ft
Highest Point 5537 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Lake Shannon No. 46;

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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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