North Cascades | Central North Cascades
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Summit Elevation: 5,699′
Lookout Type: 15’x15′ R-6 flat roof cab
Site Established: 1928
Current Structure Built: 1967
Date Visited: 9/2/17
There are more than a few Lookout Mountains around, so for clarity, this is the Lookout Mountain Lookout located near Marblemount off the Cascade River Road.
Lookout Mountain used to be passed by in favor of its grander neighbor Hidden Lake, but these days it seems a little busier than it used to be. This is one of the few lookouts available for first come, first served stays and has incredible views of the North Cascades, Pickets, and the deep cirque of nearby Monogram Lake.
Lookout Mountain’s first lookout was a 2-story cathedral style cupola built in 1928. The current structure replaced it in 1967 and was one of the last Northwest lookouts built. It is available first come first serve for overnight stays and currently maintained by volunteers.
If you do stay the night, always treat these structures with care and leave them better than you found them. Always bring overnight gear for a backup plan if the lookout is full or unavailable.
Distance (RT): 9.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,500′
The trail to Lookout Mountain is no slouch, gaining 4,500′ in just over 4.5 miles. There aren’t any views until you’re nearly at the top, but if you’re a tree person you’ll love the forested approach and it does help keep you cool in summer! Nearly 3 miles in, you’ll reach a junction that leads to Monogram Lake a bit over a mile away. I would highly recommend the detour to the lake if you’re feeling ambitious, it’s certainly worth it. Monogram Lake also has some backcountry campsites, you’ll just need to get a permit from the Ranger Station in Marblemount.
The trail to the summit continues upward before traversing a rocky meadow. When I visited in September 2017, the trail was very overgrown and littered with rocks, so take care with your footing and expect a bit of bushwhacking. Lookout Mountain can be attempted in winter and during the shoulder seasons, but use good judgment and extreme caution on this upper slope, it’s a major avalanche hazard.
When you finally get your first glimpse of the lookout you’ll think you’re there but alas, the trail traverses around a steep drop off, disappearing into forest and leaving you to wonder if you’re headed the right direction. Don’t worry, it’ll get there in another scant half mile.
At the summit is a broad meadow with plenty of room for relaxing. The lookout is perched 30′ off the ground, so be prepared to climb the stairs to the top but it’s every bit worth it! Views extend over to Monogram Lake and its impressive cirque, Mount Baker, Shuksan, Eldorado, Boston Basin, and my favorite mountain range, the spectacular Pickets to the north.
A sign recommends no more than two people stand on each side of the catwalk at a time. If you stay or visit, leave the lookout cleaner than you found it. The lookout stewards will be most grateful!
Drive Highway 20 east to Marblemount and turn onto the Cascade River Road. Drive 7 miles to the Lookout Mountain trailhead, well marked on the right side of the main road. The trail begins across the street.