Dirty Face Lookout is one of the earliest high Central Cascade trails to melt out. At four miles and with 4000 feet of elevation gain, the trail provides hikers with a very good workout. Along the way, you'll have lots to look at, as the elevation change can roll an entire season of wildflowers into a single hike. Rock roses and paintbrush bob near the trailhead, while avalanche lilys sway in the breeze near the summit. When you aren't looking at the wildflowers, the vistas are outstanding.
The trail naturally breaks into a number of sections. The first three-quarters of a mile takes you through a lowland forest made up of ponderosa pines and big leaf maples. Climb a moderate grade 700 feet to a small waterfall fed from springs that feed Fall Creek. This is an excellent slightly more challenging destination for kids. From the falls, there are excellent views of lake Wenatchee.
In 2005, there was a fire on Dirty Face that started just west of the trailhead and burned parallel to the trail all the way to the backside of the lookout. As you hike up you can see the various stages of fire ecology at work. The fire hop-scotched up the ridge, burning intensely in spots, while leaving many areas completely untouched. Venturing through these sites is fascinating, and each trip greets hikers with new fallen trees across the trail. Be aware that in windy conditions, these burned-out giants can fall, making it a dangerous environment in high winds.
After crossing the waterfall, there are a few switchbacks -- a warm up of what's to come. The trail follows a series of long abandoned logging roads. The trail tracks mostly east, and after few more switchbacks the flat mid section is reached. At this point, roughly 1.75 miles from the trailhead, the trail turns sharply back west along an old logging road.
Here there is a small sign that points the way. 100 yards behind the sign is the last reliable water. Fill up and water the dog; the hike really kicks into gear in about a half a mile. At 2.25 miles the old logging road changes back to trail for a mile of short unrelenting switchbacks, followed by three-quarters of a mile of longer, (but just as steep) switchbacks. The ground is drier here, so there are fewer wildflowers, though grouse are frequently heard and occasionally spotted. Take time to catch your breath and look around; here the views really open up: east to Fish Lake and south over Nason Ridge, where the Enchantments come in to view. Gaze downwards on kite sailors and windsurfers on Lake Wenatchee.
The last mile to the summit rolls around to the east of the lookout. In this area, the fire burned quite hot, and for the five years after the fire almost nothing grew in this area. Now the brush, fireweed and saplings are crowding around the remaining grey, weathered skeletons of trees.
You arrive at the lookout before you know it. The views from here are spectacular. Spy Glacier Peak to the north, and to the northeast look up the Chiwawa valley, where snow hangs onto the peaks well into the season. South across Nason Ridge you can see Mt. Stuart, on clear days you can see Rainier peeking out. To the west you can see all the peaks accessible up the Little Wenatchee and the White River.
The fire opened up the views from the lookout, but the lack of trees lets more sun in, so don't forget sunscreen. From July to mid-September, the trail will be hot, so start early and carry plenty of water, but have a jacket for the summit; the lookout can be cool and windy. On your return to the car, you will have more time to take in the views, and don't forget to reward yourself at the 59er Diner at Coles corner for a milkshake.
Dirty Face Lookout and Peak
- 9.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 3,950 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,989 feet
Hiking Dirty Face Lookout and Peak
Dirty Face Lookout and Peak
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.8379, -120.7976 Open in Google Maps