Mileage: 3.6 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 1323/6966ft
Map: Green Trails Mazama No. 51, my GAIA
10/8/2017 Finishing a loop on the Cascade Highway and returning back on SR 20, we were looking for a short, but amazing fall hike to do outside Mazama where we planned to stop at the wonderful store there for treats. Pulling out my Green Trail map for the area, I noticed this little gem just up on the mountain behind the store! Of course, we had to drive awhile on forest roads to get there but it was all worth it.
Arriving at the parking lot, there were only 4 other cars in the parking lot at 12:30pm. I love it when I don’t have to share the trail with a bazillion other people! We put on layers and threw some more in our packs before heading up the trail as it was only 40 degrees at the elevation of 5600ft.
The trail starts out in the forest but within .25 miles we had broken out at our first viewpoint. The peaks in the distance were dusted with recent snowfall and just a wisp of clouds floated by in the bully’s skies that made crossing over to the east side all worth it.
The climb and sun had us warming up fast so it was time to delayer a bit. The trail followed along an open meadow for a few hundred yards and then back into the forest where the real climb began. Somewhere up above was our destination lookout out of view. Here is where we did most of our gain for the next mile with just a few breaks for views of the mountains around us as the trail takes a mostly direct path up the slope.
There were some small snow flurries on the ground here at but no accumulation until we hit about 6300ft in the trees. It wasn’t too slick but I was glad I had spikes in my pack for the way down.
The light snow on the fall colored foliage was a reminder to expect anything this time of year. Fall may still be here but winter usually has its way.
At 1.25 miles we left the forest again and made it to the long ridge to the summit. We could see the lookout ahead through the sea of golden larches, the rest of our trek was an easy .5 miles across the wide ridge.
The wind was cold and the layers went back on but by the time we reached the lookout it had calmed down again. The hikers from the cars in the parking lot had all hiked out as we had hiked in so we had the summit to ourselves our entire stay at the summit.
The famous lookout guardian, Lightin’ Bill, was disappointingly not there and the structure was boarded up for the season. He has been manning the lookout since the 1970’s and is well known for his experience spent in the lookout during lightening storms. Maybe we’ll see him next time! Icicles clung from the wooden platform and chopped logs were piled up on the side but the windows were and stairs were closed up.
There was plenty of room to wander around on top, especially on the other side from the trail.
The views of the surrounding mountains was spectacular, Silver Star and Gardner standing proud with new coats of winter white. We could, also, see down as SR 20 snaked through the valley and the cabins small town of Mazama below.
The trail was dry (except for the dusting of snow), so we were glad we had brought plenty of water for the short hike (WTA and my guidebook said 5 miles but GAIA had us at 3.6 miles).
This is a great hike if you want to do some visiting of local places in Mazama or Winthrop but still want to get in a hike to amazing views without all the crowds. We stopped for drinks at the Mazama store and had just enough time to make it over the pass and to Darrington on the way home (if heading south on I-5 from SR 20, it is faster to take the Mountain Loop then to go all the way out through Burlington) to have pizza (gluten free) and a beverage at River Time Brewery before they closed!
Directions: Drive east on SR 20 over Rainy and Washington Pass to MP 179 and the town of Mazama. Turn left and cross over to the town of Mazama, turning right on Lost Creek Rd at the T (left takes you to the Mazama Store). In 2 miles you will see Forest Road 52 on the left signed for the Goat Creek Sno-Park. Turn and follow this road 2.7 miles to a junction on the left signed for FR 5225 and Goat Peak L.O. (which is hard to see until you make the turn as it is tilted). Now follow this road up and up about 5.8 miles until you see a turn on the right signed for FR 200. From here, the trailhead is another 2.9 miles. There is room for about 10 cars in the lot and a privy is available. Northwest Forest Pass required