Over the weekend a friend and I tried to get up to Lookout Mountain outside of Twisp but couldn’t get close enough on snowy roads to make the hike do-able for her 8-yr old daughter. The road ends about 1.5 miles from the summit trail and the tire tracks all the way prove you can do it and that people have. But about 3 miles from the top the road narrows and the steep drop on one side gives you very little room for making a mistake or for getting turned around. We started to get bogged in the snow and spent a few nail-biting seconds doing a 50-pt turn to come back down. Well, it was probably 3 but you get the idea.
I headed back up there today with the Jeep and immediately noticed the roads were significantly icier than over the weekend but the Jeep kept crawling so I kept going. Though I’m sure I could have made it the whole way to the top I didn’t really want to have my own Thelma & Louise moment so I parked at a large turnout about 3 miles from the top and hiked up the rest of the way. The extra 1.5 miles on the road didn’t really add that much time. It was a steady but fast and easy cruise with some pretty great views. And Jake got to play in the snow so that’s always a bonus.
The road is a bit of a round-a-bout way to get to the summit. I kept looking at my Green Trails map and a few times thought about just going straight up the mountain rather than meandering back and forth underneath it, but not knowing the terrain or the area I just stuck to the road. I know Annette is becoming a bad influence on me when I consider cross country trekking it, ha! We’ll come back to that…
The workout started once I got to the top of the road and turned onto the actual trail to the summit. The trail wastes no time going up and you gain about 1100′ in a mile. There was also a bit more snow than I was expecting and since I didn’t bring snowshoes it was a rather arduous trudge up. Completely do-able, but snowshoes might have made it a little easier. As you climb through the bit of forest you can spy the amazing views out to the Cascades and all around starting to open up. It’s really quite a beautiful climb!
Now here’s the part where I KNOW Annette has been a bad influence because after consulting my Green Trails map again and seeing that I was directly below the summit I started thinking, “You know – why should I go all the way around and then come up the backside when I could just go straight up?” So yeah, go straight up is what I did. I noticed some tracks and figured other people had done the same until they quickly disappeared and all I was following was mule deer tracks. This the part where I hope my dad isn’t reading this because he’ll give me a lecture about doing stupid things when you’re hiking solo.
But I could see where I was going, the route looked fairly clear and the snow conditions seemed safe so I kept climbing. At one point I encountered a foot deep snow drift that put Jake into swimming practice. Then I got a little worried, but luckily it was short lived and after a very slow, very steep slog skywards I popped out right behind the little outhouse directly behind the firetower.
The only casualty in the steep climb was my poor Apple Oatmeal bar that slipped out of my pocket and went careening downhill on the snow. There was no stopping it so hopefully someone up there enjoys it tonight! The irony is that it probably took me twice as long to get to the summit with my stupid little detour than if I had just stuck to the trail, but hey, Annette would have been proud.
The views from Lookout Mountain are pretty damn incredible – 360 every direction and fabulous views of the oddly shaped Hoodoo Peak and the North Cascades.
The lookout tower itself seems like it’s seen better days. The weathered, broken, hanging wooden slats didn’t really beg me to climb it so I ventured no further than the first set of stairs. I didn’t really feel like testing the integrity of the catwalk. And this time Jake was smart enough to stay on the ground.
I spent a little while on top admiring the views but didn’t stay long since the wind made the temps seem freezing compared to the way up. This time though I followed the trail down rather than going back the way I came. It was definitely faster and the hike down blazed by in no time.
Once back at the Jeep I had no idea the real adventure was about to start though as the icy road made for a very slow and nerve wracking descent. I think I crept most of the way down in 1st gear trying to keep the Jeep as slow and steady as possible. A few sections of road were so slick there’d be no stopping if I started sliding. Though about 75% of the road was mostly safe, there were some very tight corners with steep drop-offs. A definite “no slide” zone.
I’m happy to say we made it safely down without incident going probably a ridiculous 3mph but hey, we’re alive, so that’s great! I got to bag a 2nd lookout this winter but I think next time I visit Lookout Mountain I may go in the summer and save myself some adrenaline!
Oh yeah, and look how much harder I made that ascent on myself! Geez….
Round Trip: 5.6 miles from the lower pullout
Elevation Gain: ~2098′
High Point: 5518′
Total Hiking Time: 2:25
Full track of ascent and descent
According to the National Historic Lookout Register, Lookout Mountain Lookout has the highest number of first fire reports in the Methow Valley. It was placed in standby status by the Okanogan National Forest in 1998. Established as a camp in 1916, a log cupola was built in 1931. The present classic 14′ x 14′ L-4 with catwalk on a 25′ timber tower was constructed in 1937.
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