Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest | Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Location: 47.3015752,-120.7628154 Summit Elevation: 5,361′ Lookout Type: 10′ L-4 cab Site Established: 1924 Current Structure Built: 1952 Date Visited: 10/24/17
Red Top lookout used to be staffed by volunteers in summer and its gorgeous views of the Enchantments and Stuart Range are stunning, especially in fall, when the surrounding golden larches are out in full force. Hopefully Red Top can be staffed again in the future.
Photos from a 2017 visit.
Red Top was first established in 1924 with a cabin that was replaced in 1928 with a D-6 cupola.
It was reported that in November 1929, Ranger Anderson at Casland, on the Wenatchee, watched lightning strike the summit of Red Top several times, directly hitting the lookout at least twice. The lookout at the time reported the insulation was burned off the telephone wire leading into the building and his hair took a few days to lie down again. 🙂
The present 10′ treated timber tower with L-4 cab was built in 1952. It stood abandoned after the 70s and in the late 90s, received attention and restoration by the Cle Elum Ranger District with assistance from volunteers with the Friends of Red Top Mountain group.
On August 26, 1997, a summit party with those volunteers helped celebrate the lookout’s appointment to the National Historical Lookout Register. It’s now staffed by volunteers as an interpretive site in summers.
Red Top is perhaps best known for its nearby agate beds and thunder eggs. Thunder eggs, you ask? It’s similar to a geode!
Distance (RT): 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: 350′
From parking lot, continue up the dirt road and see the lookout perched high ahead of you. The trail is a short half mile climb but steep. It begins in forest before breaking out onto an exposed rocky ridge. The broad summit gives you plenty of room to spread out. The lookout is typically staffed in summer.
In the fall, the surrounding forests are filled with golden larches and the views of the Enchantments and Stuart Range are really incredible! Consider making a complete loop all the way around the summit.
From I-90, take exit 85 for Highway 970 North toward Wenatchee. Continue onto Highway 97N 18 miles to the Mineral Spring Campground and turn left onto Forest Service Road 9738 just past Mineral Springs. Continue 2.6 miles, then turn left onto 9702, following signs for Red Top Mountain. In 4.5 miles reach the parking area and trailhead.