Mount Pilchuck

An evening scramble I’d signed up for got canceled for today so I decided to head out to Mount Pilchuck. I’ve been to the lookout tower of Mount Pilchuck in 2017 but that day it was pouring rain so I was keen to go back and see if I could get some views. The weather for the day looked pretty good so I was hopeful.


~ 5.5

elevation gain

2,200 ft


Mountain Loop Highway

drive time from Seattle


useful gear

Poles, Stiff Boots


NW Forest Pass

I’d forgotten how bad the road is to Mount Pilchuck’s trailhead. I think it might even be getting worse. There are huge potholes in the first mile that make driving pretty slow even in my high clearance Jeep! One mile before the trailhead the road becomes paved as you enter the Forest Service Land which makes for some relief. I arrived at the trailhead around 12:30 surprised by how many cars there were in the parking lot for a Wednesday. As I was getting ready realized I forgot my gaiters. I started hiking hoping I wouldn’t regret leaving them at home.

I didn’t realize earlier but there used to be an old ski field on Mount Pilchuck so the first part of the trail was the old service road. The trail pretty quickly crosses a stream and quickly starts switchbacking up the West side of the mountain. There aren’t any views for the first mile but the trail is really pretty (lots of log steps) and the forest is quiet. The trail becomes even rockier and uneven when you reach some boulder fields and starts traversing up the north face of the mountain. Here is where I met the snow, about 1.25 miles in.

It was well past 1:00 when I hit the snow and it had softened up under the day’s heat. This made it slippery going and the climbing a little more exhausting because of it. Due to the traffic on this trail, it was easy to see which way to go. After the trail traverses for a bit it then opens up to where you can see up to the summit of Mount Pilchuck across a big snowfield. This was a really pretty sight but I could make out people up on the summit and was a little dismayed at how far it looked like I had left.

I reached the lookout tower and summit after about an hour and a half of hiking. The clouds were swirling around the same level as the mountain which looked really cool with the cliffs seeming to go into the sky. I didn’t get the views I was hoping for. The lookout was boarded up, it only gets opened in the summer but it’s balcony made for a nice place to rest and take photos. The lookout tower itself seems to perch precariously on the boulders that make up the cliffs and summit of Mount Pilchuck, making you wonder how it stays there.

After 20 minutes the views got even more socked in so I decided to start making my way down. I was quicker on the way down, able to plunge step down the snow easy enough. I avoided most of the glissade shoots because some had rocks sticking out. I post-holed down to my knee on a few occasions because the snow was getting soft. My boots and feet were completely sopping wet by the time I got off the snow and back to the normal trail. Because of the snow being a little slick I was back to the car quickly in just over an hour.

Gaia map

  • Jan

    Perhaps it’ll be 3rd time lucky for the view.
    And is ‘socked in’ an Americanism?

    1. claire

      Not sure if ‘socked in’ is an Americanism. I looked it up and it has roots in aviation!

  • Christian

    Love that people want to come and please spend time in the town to find our hidden gem eateries and coffee spots. However, bring a bag to pack your garbage out after you’ve taken in the views. I’m a local and make it up the trail quite often and always seem to be picking up forgotten poop bags, empty water bottles, snack wrappers, tossed masks, and annoying orange peels on my way down after sunset. Quit being lazy and pack your trash out. Please. You’re a big kid, you can do it.

  • Daniel Keiley

    There were two chairlifts and 2 rope tows on Mt Pilchuck. Final season of operation was 1977. If one knows where to look concrete footings and other remnants can be found.

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