Easily one of the most rewarding hikes in the area, its relatively short 2.7 mile, 2.300 feet uphill gifts you 360-degree views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and the Olympics from its shelter lookout, which sits nestled on a top of about 5,300 feet. This calf-friendly journey is all made possible by a high elevation trailhead that sets you off around 3,000 feet on your travels, cutting in half what would otherwise be an arduous 10 mile roundtrip.
All of these attractive elements also make Pilchuck one of the area's busiest hikes, so expect company along the way. It is ideal to catch the trail on a quiet day, but the structure can take on hostel-like conditions even on weekdays as hikers gather, fighting for space to spend the night in the first-come, first-served lookout.
But don't let the popularity of Pilchuck fool you. This peak shouldn't be mistaken for a bunny hill, even with its heavy foot traffic and respectable grade. There are dangerous elements, especially in winter, when the path can be obscured by snow, leading hikers to improvise and get lost. Hikers often have to be rescued from the mountain, so please take all the precautions necessary before tackling the trail. Before you start your journey, you are always encouraged to check in with the ranger and sign the trailhead registry.
Leave the trailhead to start and reach an immediate fork. The left trail is a wrong trail, so take a right and get your feet wet through a stream, christening your trip up Mount Pilchuck. You'll see a sign "entering Pilchuck State Park" after about a quarter mile. Better days have been seen, but it reaffirms your course and destination. From this point on, there is sparse signage. It's not a particularly dangerous trail early on, but depending on the season, on the latter part of the trip you might be dealing with rocky, snowy and wet conditions, so be prepared for anything. When snow is present on the trail, traction devices and poles are strongly encouraged.
At the one-mile mark you will find a scree slope (for reference, the elevation marker should be about 3,500 feet). Try not to scramble upwards. Look for an orange marker that will guide you through the boulder field and bring you back to the trail you have defined. You will leave the forest after another half mile and reach a clearing. Unless it is obscured by the cloud cover, the fire lookout at the summit should be visible. Use this landmark as a reference point, as hikers are known to gravitate to false summits and put themselves at risk.
You will reach the summit's cone after snaking up the exposed slope. A brown "Parking Area" sign should be placed on a tree pointing back hikers down the slope you just walked up. Before reaching the lookout, this will be the last vestige of signage. If you don't see this sign and don't trust your whereabouts, you may have wandered to one of the fake summits. You continue on the right trail, winding around the peak until you finally reach the top of the mountain and its sublime fire lookout restored.
Maximum Temprature: 15 C
Clouds: light rain
sunrise: 2019-05-20 12:22:26
sunset: 2019-05-21 03:45:18