North Cascades | Methow Mountains
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Location: 48.313222, -120.187500
Summit Elevation: 5,515′
Lookout Type: 14’x14′ L-4
Site Established: 1911
Current Structure Built: 1937
First Visited: 1/22/14
When all of the Methow Valley’s lookouts were once staffed, the competition for fire reporting was fierce. Lookout Mountain owns the record for the highest number of first fire reports in the Valley.
Lookout Mountain is in my own backyard and I’m proud to say that in September 2021, I helped organized a volunteer work party to get it some much needed fresh paint. Lookout is now beautiful and photogenic once again!
Photos are from visits from winter 2014, fall 2017, and fall 2021 after fresh paint.
Lookout Mountain Lookout was first established as a camp in 1911, then sometime in 1922 there was a log cabin on the summit with a lookout house. The approximate cost of material, packing, and construction was $165.00. Plans for a new lookout on the summit were announced in 1928 and the present 14′ x 14′ L-4 cab with catwalk on a 25′ timber tower was constructed in 1937. Lookout was staffed every summer until 1997.
Every fire season the lookout averaged over a dozen first reports of fires, giving it the distinction of being the lookout with the highest number of first fire reports in the Methow Valley. It was placed on standby status by the Okanogan National Forest in 1998 and remains on emergency status. It’s also listed in the National Historic Lookout Register as of November 8, 2000.
Repainting Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain has been in dire need of paint for years. The last coat of paint was likely applied 20-25 years ago and poor Lookout has been down to the bones. In September 2021, I worked with support from the Methow Valley Ranger District and Forest Archeologist to organize a volunteer painting party. The retired Methow Valley District Ranger Mike Liu joined me and completed some structural repairs while myself and a handful of amazing volunteers scraped, painted, and transformed the lookout.
We matched paint chips from the little bit of existing paint left on the lookout and this new paint will help the lookout weather the elements for hopefully at least another 20 years! During the work I was able to fully open Lookout Mountain for one of the few times in probably 20 years and it was a fantastic week staying up there and meeting so many awesome volunteers!
If road is gated*:
Distance (RT): 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,360′
If road is not gated:
Distance (RT): 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,200′
*The road is often gated below the trailhead during hunting season and winter months. If gated, there is a large turnout to park and the extra mile or so up the road doesn’t add a ton of time and is quite pleasant.
I’ve visited Lookout Mountain often during the shoulder season when the road is gated and the extra mile road hike goes quickly, especially with beautiful views east across the Methow Valley.
Once at the upper trailhead, the trail is on the left and climbs a very non-direct 1,200′ through forest to the summit, mostly winding around the mountain.
As the trail wraps around the west side of Lookout Mountain, it reveals big views of Hoodoo Peak and the surrounding North Cascades.
The lookout is locked but the catwalk is open with expansive 360° views of the entire Okanogan, Hoodoo Peak being a prominent point on the horizon.
From Twisp, turn on the Twisp River Rd. (W 2nd Ave). In 0.25 miles turn left on Lookout Mountain Rd. Follow the road approximately 6.25 miles to the upper trailhead. From there the lookout is a 2.6 mile roundtrip hike with 1,200′ of elevation gain.
During winter and hunting season, the road is gated lower which adds approximately 3 miles round trip to the outing. The road is generally well maintained and easy for most vehicles. Depending on winter conditions, it may be possible to reach Lookout Mountain on a long ski or snowshoe tour.