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South Point Lookout

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You get both sides of the coin here: hiking through an old forest fire zone to a fire lookout site. You can see the place where men and women stood guard to try to protect the forests from fire, and you can see the effects of fire that wasn't contained. This route gets few visitors and as such offers a remarkable degree of solitude, but that lack of attention also means the trail is falling into disrepair. The route gets a bit brushy in places, and as it crests the open ridgeline below the summit, the path is very rough and hard to follow at times.

This is largely an open, sunlit trail thanks to an old forest fire that leveled much of the forest canopy and created a series of new wildflower meadows and deer-filled clearings. The forest is returning, but the timber is sparse still, leaving lots of sun-dappled terrain to explore.

The trail angles upward from the trailhead, riding switchbacks through the fire zone. After passing the old burn sites in the first 2 miles, the route loops north around the head of a small basin (a seasonal spring seeps out of the hillside above the trail, but generally not enough to be a stable water source).

Once on the ridgetop, the trail angles south once more, climbing moderately for 0.6 mile, then very steeply through a tight series of switchbacks to top out at the 5980-foot South Point summit, just 3.5 miles after leaving the trailhead.

Look for remains of the old lookout tower that stood here during the middle of this century. The adventurous hiker can scramble along an old trail (no longer maintained) that rides the crest of the South Point Ridge south for a few miles. There is no reliable source of drinking water along the entire trail, so be sure to carry all you need.
Driving Directions:

From Packwood, drive 4 miles west on U.S. Highway 12 to a junction with Forest Road 20. Turn left (south) onto this road and continue 4.9 miles to the trailhead on the left.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 1 trip reports for this hike.
South Point Lookout #123 — Jul 08, 2006 — Kim Brown
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns
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I met Alan Bauer in the Gifford Pinchot NF for this wonderful hike to a fire lookout site. The trai...

I met Alan Bauer in the Gifford Pinchot NF for this wonderful hike to a fire lookout site.

The trail begins at 2900' and the summit is 5980'. The trail begins on an old logging road, so old that you're in deep forest with a forest floor littered with downed trees, branches and understory; the trees were cut so long ago. The tread is very good tread, only a couple of downed logs on the whole 3.5 miles (approx.) of the trail.

We saw lots of avalanche lillies, some spent, but in the upper forest they're lush and still in full bloom.

The road turns into a trail after a couple of miles, and enters a meadow. It then enters a forest of moss-draped silver fir, the forest floor is smooth and clean; covered in green leafy understory. There was a much-welcomed cool breeze for us in the beautiful upper forest. We both enjoyed this portion of the trail very much.

Soon you pop out to an obvious turn-around spot at the saddle, if one doesn't wish to huff up the remaining 300' to the hot summit. We chose to remain here and soak in the views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, the Goat Rocks, and a little scramble down to a wide ledge gives you views of Mt. Rainier.

This is a very worthy jaunt!

To get there, if you're coming from Hwy 12 out of MRNP, take FS 20 a few miles beyond Packwood. Drive about 5 miles, crossing a one-lane bridge. Just beyond the bridge is the trailhead on the left, signed Southpoint Trail #123. The parking lot is a pullout enough for 2 or 3 vehicles.

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View from South Point Lookout - Kim Brown.jpg
View from South Point Lookout. Photo: Kim Brown
South Point Lookout (#123)
South Cascades -- White Pass / Cowlitz River Valley
Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
Roundtrip 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2900 ft
Highest Point 5980 ft
Old growth
Mountain views
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails No. 302 Packwood

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Red MarkerSouth Point Lookout
46.5254166667 -121.667383333
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