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Breathtaking views await you from the summit of Mount Pilchuck

The hike to the summit of Mount Pilchuck can be challenging, but you're rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

I’m still new to hiking in the Pacific Northwest, so I didn’t know what to expect when I was invited on a hike to the summit of Mount Pilchuck in the Cascades. After doing some research and looking at other hikers' photos, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

What to expect

The trail was a little over five miles roundtrip and gained 2,300 feet in elevation.

It wasn't long, but got strenuous in areas. Inexperienced hikers and children might have trouble reaching the top. Once making it to the old fire lookout at the summit, I was greeted with a breathtaking 360-degree view of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the Olympics.

Hitting the trail

The trailhead and parking lot are located about an hour and a half north of Seattle in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, so we needed a Northwest Forest or Interagency pass to park before exploring.

There weren’t many water sources along the trail, so I was glad I brought a large water bottle with me.

The trail is pretty popular among hikers, so you should expect company on your adventure. The parking lot was nearly full when I arrived, but the trail never felt too crowded.

The Mount Pilchuck Parking lot. Photo: Jimmy Bernhard

The hike started out in an old growth forest before coming across a clearing of rocks and boulders. Part of the trail got a little confusing, but there were orange markers along the way to help guide us.

Orange trail marker near the summit of Mount Pilchuck. Photo: Jimmy Bernhard

The trail exits the forest about halfway to the summit and begins snaking up the rocky side of Mount Pilchuck. The skies were mostly clear during the hike and I was able to see the final destination well before reaching the top.

For the most part, the trail is well-maintained with only a few spots still covered in snow.

The tail got rather steep as we approached the summit. After making the final turn, we could see the fire lookout. I had to navigate and climb over some boulders to reach the ladder leading up to the lookout’s wraparound porch.

The climb to the Mount Pilchuck fire lookout. Photo: Jimmy Bernhard

If you bring your dog on the hike, there is a good chance you will need to carry them over the boulders and up the ladder ... unless your four-legged friend is part mountain goat.

Shuttered windows cover all four walls of the lookout, and there are pictures inside from when it was originally built in the early 1900s. I had a fun history lesson about the area while I caught my breath and ate lunch.

Hiking reflections

The hike took five or six hours to finish and was a rewarding way to spend a sunny day outside. The trail was short enough to where I didn’t feel like I spent the entire day hiking, but the elevation change made it enough of a challenge to make me feel like I was getting a workout.

Be sure you have the tools, supplies, and experience necessary before setting out on any hiking adventure. I brought a litter and a half of water on the hike and finished it all by the time I made it back to the parking lot.

Check any hiking reports before deciding to head to the summit of Mount Pilchuck. My adventure was pretty tame, but several reports said the trail could get dangerous and confusing when covered in snow.

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