North Cascades | Central North Cascades
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest | Glacier Peak Wilderness
Summit Elevation: 6,500′
Lookout Type: 14’x14′ L-4 cab
Site Established: 1926
Current Structure Built: 1933
Date Visited: 10/28/17
Green Mountain Lookout has an incredible history and it’s one of the few lookouts that is often volunteer staffed. It’s also a stunning destination in the fall when its slopes are painted in bright red and orange and full of seasonal berries.
Photos from 2017 visit.
Green Mountain has a tremendous history! It was first established in 1926. The lookout, Hubert Wilson, lived in a tent below the the summit and hiked up to spot lightning strikes. During the 1928 season, the lookout was John E. Schwartz, who lived in a small 8 x 10 wall tent and used a small firefighter positioned on rock at the summit.
In 1933, the currently existing L-4 style lookout was built, likely by the Civilian Conservation Corps who had an established camp at the Darrington Ranger Station. In 1942 a shake cabin was added just below the summit and the lookout was used as an full-time aircraft warning station during WWII.
The lookout was initially staffed year-round but harsh winters forced the closure of winter operations. In the winter of 1949-1950, the lookout sustained severe damage from heavy snowfall. It received numerous improvements including a new roof and additional catwalk around three sides, executed by Rod O’Connor and Dan Beighle of Bellingham. Green Mountain was used seasonally well into the 1980s, then was staffed by Forest Service wilderness rangers for outreach purposes until the mid-1990s.
In 1988, the lookout was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and an agreement was made in 1990 with the “Friends of Green Mountain” to coordinate volunteer and maintenance efforts. Shortly after, the Suiattle River Road washed out but the lookout still received maintenance, if not visitors.
Unfortunately in 1995, the lookout was closed to the public due to a failing foundation and dangerous catwalk. In 1998, the Forest Service began work to restore the crumbling lookout but the foundation was compromised, leaving it leaning precariously on the summit.
In 2002, it was completely disassembled and each piece was flown to Darrington by helicopter for repairs. Extensive storm damage on the Suiattle River road in 2003 and 2006 closed the road permanently until late in 2014, so it wasn’t until 2009 that the lookout was finally reassembled.
As if that wasn’t enough of a story, a Montana-based group filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service claiming helicopter and machinery used to repair the lookout violated the Wilderness Act. The US District Court ordered the lookout’s removal, despite it having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Forest Service appealed and on April 16, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act, which amended the Washington State Wilderness Act of 1984 to permanently protect the lookout.
Distance (RT): 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,300′
The trail to Green Mountain starts with a moderate climb through forest on soft trails. Roughly halfway to the lookout is a huge, flat basin with a few shallow lakes and established campsites. Use care if you camp here and only camp in established spots, the meadows are fragile.
The trail continues easily across the basin and you’ll get your first view of the lookout perched 1,300′ up the ridge above you. The trail switchbacks up, directly below the lookout and the views of Glacier Peak and the surrounding North Cascades get larger with every step. Once you reach the lookout, enjoy incredible views of Baker, Shuksan, the North Cascades and the Buckindy Group in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
Definitely follow one of the side trails from the summit that lead down the ridge. You’ll get an impressive perspective of the lookout above!
This is a spectacular hike in the fall with incredible colors and most importantly, lots of berries!
From Darrington, drive north on State Route 530 for 7.5 miles then turn right onto Forest Road 26 (Suiattle River Road) immediately after the Sauk River bridge. Drive 19 miles, the road will turn to gravel for the last 9, and turn left onto the Green Mountain Road (Forest Road 2680). Continue 5.5 miles to the trailhead. High clearance is recommended as the road can be rough and potholed. The Suiattle River Road is notorious for flooding, so check road conditions before leaving.