North Mountain Lookout
Jun 11, 2012
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: North Mountain Lookout
- Region: North Cascades -- West Slope
- Be Aware Of
- Snow on trail
The Forest Service has not decided yet if the North Mountain lookout tower will be demolished or if it will be restored and maintained with the help of a group of volunteers, similar to what was accomplished with Heybrook Lookout. It is still used as a radio tower with a bunch of antennas on it. So I went so see for myself to find out what condition the tower is in at the moment.
The road to North Mountain leaves Highway 530 north of Darrington at a sign "Whitehorse Community Park" and "Welcome to Darrington". The Forest Service map shows it as FR 2810 but other trip reports refer to it as road 3000. There are no signs with either number at the start of the road. Some of the side spurs have signs with numbers in the 300X range. The first 2.8 miles of the road are paved, single lane road with turnouts. Sections have even been repaved recently. Pavement ends at 2.8 mi., 1100 ft elevation. For helping other hikers to navigate this maze of logging roads, I have recorded the distance from Hwy 530 and the approx. elevation of the five hairpin curve switchbacks in the road that takes you to the top of the mountain:
Miles from Hwy 530 Elevation, ft. Direction of turn
6.7 1970 right
7.7 2280 left
8.8 2400 right
10.9 2970 left
11.4 3140 right
As of June 2012, there was logging activity between miles 4.2 and 4.4, and there should have been a sign at the start of the road warning drivers of oncoming logging truck traffic ahead. Instead, there were only signs TREE FELLING AHEAD adjacent to both ends of the activity.
The gravel road between the end of pavement and the logging activity was recently graded and is soft. The lower and the upper sections of the road have their fair share of potholes and after a wet, rainy June and the recent snowmelt are still quite wet and muddy. The road is driveable with a sedan or even a Eurovan. The middle section through an area that was logged ~10-20 years ago is in better shape and offers nice views.
When the road got too muddy, I turned around and parked at 11.9 mi., 3340 ft. just 0.2 miles short of the gate. There is ample space for turning around and parking at the gate. The latch of the gate was broken and one could have opened the gate if it was not for all the snow blocking it. Snow started at the gate and more than half of the hike up the road was on snow. Where the road was bare, it looked like it was in good condition, rarely driven. On the snow, there were only faint, melted boot prints where a previous hiker had post holed and there were bear tracks of a full-grown bear using the same route. There are some glimpses of the spectacular, snow-covered surrounding peaks, Mt. Baker and White Horse while hiking up and from the base of the lookout tower. Trees surrounding the lookout tower block much of the view from the base of the tower. The lookout tower stairs are gated and locked, but the wire mesh fence on one side has been cut open by vandals. A metal door to a room that houses the propane-powered electricity generator has been riddled with bullet holes. The base of the tower is surrounded by broken window glass. Paint on a metal sign has peeled off and the sign is now illegible. The structure of the 40-ft. tower, built in 1966, is in good shape and it is well worth preserving. We just hope that it will not suffer the same fate as Green Mountain Lookout.
Max. elevation 3824 ft., elevation gain 490 ft., 50 min. up, 35 min. down.
The USFS web site
"2810 North Mountain Partial Closure 5/16/2012
Washington State Department of Natural Resources timber sale mile 0 - 4.8. Expect log truck traffic and equipment. The road may be closed at the logging sites during logging operations."
I should have consulted this web site or inquired at the ranger station USFS Darrington Ranger Station (360) 436-1155 before venturing out onto this road! This logging activity may go on for most of this summer.