Best time to visit Washington

Park Butte Lookout in Washington 2024

A fairy-tale cabin on top of a hill provides stunning views

Best time: July–October

Park Butte Lookout
Park Butte Lookout
Park Butte Lookout
Park Butte Lookout
Park Butte Lookout

Park Butte is a popular hike for Seattle residents due to its stunning views of North Cascades with towering Koma Kulshan, Mount Baker, and the Twin Sisters. Another attraction of the trek is a historic fire lookout built in 1932 by the Forest Service. The trail to Park Butte features meadows dotted by wildflowers, scenic waterfalls, wild berries, and mushrooms.

The 13-km (8-mi) trail to the Park Butte Lookout (#603) starts at the parking lot of Mt. Baker National Recreation Area at an elevation of 3250 (990 m). A Recreation Pass is required for every vehicle parked at the trailhead. After crossing a bridge over Sulphur Creek, the trail goes west to Schriebers Meadows. Hikers pass waterfalls and fields abundant with salmonberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and various flowers along the way. The same path also goes to Mount Baker climbers' camp so look out for trail split. Within the last mile of the trail, hikers leave alpine meadows and take a steep ascent along a rocky ridge. Be careful when climbing the ladder to the lookout.

Camping at the lookout is possible on a first come first serve basis. You can wake up in the morning to a beautiful view! You will find a bed and a stove in the lookout. There are basic toilet services moderately closeby, about a mile away. However, along the route, when the toilets are not available, you are required to pack out all of your waste.

The best time to make this hike is when the mountains are free of snow from mid-July to October. The trails conditions might fluctuate depending on the annual amount of snow that covers the area in winter and when the snow season storms in.

Practical info

What can be seen from the Park Butte Lookout?

From the Park Butte Lookout, visitors can see the towering Koma Kulshan, Mount Baker, and the Twin Sisters. They can enjoy panoramic views of picturesque landscapes comprising a mountain range, various flora, and majestic glaciers, including the sunrise, sunset, and even stargazing from the fire lookout cabin. Show more

What is the length of the trail leading to the Park Butte Lookout?

The trail leading to the Park Butte Lookout is a 13-kilometer (8-mile) long route that starts from the Mt. Baker National Recreation Area parking lot. The path offers a wide range of landmarks like meadows dotted by wildflowers, scenic waterfalls, wild berries, and mushrooms, crossed by a bridge over Sulphur Creek to Schriebers Meadows. The last mile of the trail leads through a steep ascent along a rocky ridge. Show more

What are the requirements for camping at the lookout?

Camping at the lookout is on a first-come, first-serve basis, allowing guests to get a bed and a stove. However, visitors should pack out all of their waste since basic toilet services are moderately close, about a mile away. Additionally, visitors must have a recreation pass for the vehicle parked at the trailhead. Show more

When is the ideal time to hike the trail?

The ideal time for hiking is mid-July to October when the mountains are free of snow. However, the trails' conditions come with the annual amount of snow accumulation, which can initiate snow season storms, changing the hiking experience. Regardless of the time of year, the weather can be unpredictable. Show more

What kind of wildlife could a hiker come across on the trail?

Hikers on the Park Butte Lookout trail might catch a glimpse of various birds such as golden eagles and common perching birds attracted by the forest. Other animals like black bears, coyotes, and bobcats can also be spotted by vigilant hikers. Furthermore, keen observers might see numerous insect and amphibian species, deer, or elk. Show more

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