Sourdough Lookout

Gary wanted to hike up to Sourdough Lookout. The forecast high for Saturday at the trailhead on Monday was 75 degrees. My Thursday it was up to 87 degrees. Did I really want to hike a trail on a south face that gains 5100' in just 5.5 miles? Well, back in 2006 I joined a group that did the hike on a day that warmed into the upper 90s. That day we were able to get on the trail just after 6:00 am. That would not be happening with a start from Seattle. I also did the trip in 1994. Twelve years between each visit. Gary did the hike in 1978. Just 40 years between visits. All our our trips were in July. John joined us for his first visit. On the positive side, the forecast dropped down the morning of the trip. We met in Lynnwood at 6:00 am. We headed north then east through Darrington and Marblemount to Diablo.There were already four cars at the trailhead when we arrived at 7:50 am. By 8:00 am we walked across the grass to the start of the trail.

The trail starts pretty steep. It stays that way for quite a while. With our early start we had quite a bit of shade going up. We had a lot of solitude going up. We passed a couple. We saw one guy coming down. We saw three folks higher up coming down. We kept up a steady though not fast pace. Add in a number of photo stops. We had some views west to Davis Peak and south to the Colonial and Pyramid peaks. Mostly we were in forest the first few miles. The GPS recorded 1750' of gain in just 1.3 miles. A 2000'/mile pace is fast enough to get up the mountain.

After about 3000' of gain the grade does easy a bit.  at about 4300' the switchbacks gave way to a long rising traverse heading north. The trail gets a bit narrow in places with a few climbs over rocks. We reached a small creek and a few minutes later came Sourdough Creek. There is plenty of water running but it is easy to rock hop across. We took a break here. Some great views out and a breeze made it a great spot to rest. Now we just had another mile to the ridge top and 1000' to gain. We had some forest and some open slopes on the way to the ridge. There were even a few small snow patches. None were any problem to cross. We  had a few small fields of glacier lilies in bloom and many that were done for the year. There were a few columbine and tiger lilies in bloom. A couple lupine and some Indian paintbrush. Some Valerian in multiple places. Spring beauty had some patches in bloom. In total there were flowers in bloom but not a lot of them.

It was getting toasty out in the open near the ridge top. We passed another couple. The guy had a camera on a tripod. We all had point an shoot cameras to save weight. I was pleased to reach the ridge top. It was 11:42 am. It took us 3:42 to gain 5000' in just over 5 miles. Now we had views to the north. Hozomeen Peak near the Canadian border is eye catching. Jack Mountain to the east is over 9000'. We could even see Sourdough Lake below to the northwest. The ridge top is still snow covered. It is plenty consolidated making it easy to walk the last .3 miles to the lookout. Part way up we left the snow to take the now open dirt trail the last short climb to the top. There is snow to the north of the lookout but plenty of bare rock. The south side is also bare dirt. There were some flying bugs but also a little breeze. I put on a windshirt to fend off bugs. Gary and John settled down on the north side of the lookout in the shade. I enjoyed a little more sunshine before joining them.

Now at just a few feet below 6000' the temperature in the shade registered 58 degrees. With the tremendous views and very comfortable conditions I would have liked to spend the rest of the day there. In fact, we had one full hour on the summit alone. Not bad for solitude. At that point folks started showing up. A couple then one guy then two more women. Not a huge crowd but it was the end of our solitude. At 1:30 pm we packed up to head down. Some easy hiking down the snowy ridge to the saddle. On my last visit we headed up the other direction to the real summit of Sourdough Mountain. That day we started at 6:00 am. It was already getting toasty and we had 5100' of elevation to lose. It was time to head down from the ridge top. Parts of the trail were narrow and there was some loose spots. With the steepness it was a pain.

We soon began to meet folks coming up. They continued to come up most of our way down. Not Mt. Si crowding but we saw over 20 folks heading up in the heat of the day. It was heating up. The open spots provided great views down to Diablo Lake. Diablo Dam was shooting out water down to Gorge Lake. It looked like a lot of flow. Just above Sourdough Creek we met a park ranger on the trail. There were a few logs to step over on the trail but not any that were a real problem. At the creek we stopped to pump or treat more water. We added a little water coming up too. There were some marsh marigolds in bloom too.

After the more gently descending traverse the steeper switchbacks began again. Lower down the forest gave way to more open spots. They were shaded in the morning but now the hot sun was shining on us. I was amazed to find folks heading up late in the afternoon. It was tough enough to lose all that elevation. We were all happy to see the bridge near the bottom. We reached the car at about 5:11 pm. Thankfully, the car was in the shade. Gary's thermometer read about 80 degrees but it felt warmer to me. So ended John's first trip up Sourdough, Gary's second, and my third. It really is a great trip for us to have so few trips up the trail. Though steep, the grade is pretty consistent. The views up top are spectacular. We don't often hike to great North Cascades viewpoints. Throw in a lookout, some wildflowers, and snow lingering into late July most years on top for water and you have great destination. Still, I will probably think about another visit in twelve years. Hopefully, Gary won't wait another forty years.

Start Of Trail
Up We Go
First View
Davis Peak
National Park Boundary
Pyramid Peak
Break In Forest
Glacier Lily
Sourdough Camp
Treating Water
Gary At Work
Sourdough Creek
Colonial Peaks
Little Devil Peak?
Open Slopes
Indian Paintbrush
Rosy Spirea
Diablo Lake
Tour Boat
Nearing Ridge Top
On Ridge Top
Sourdough Lake
John & Jack & Gary
View Northwest
Heading To Lookout
Hozomeen Peak
John On Snow
Short Shadow
View Down Ridge
North Cascades View
Ruby Mountain
Jack & Crater Mts.
Sourdough Lookout
Mt. Terror
Gary At Lookout
Jim At Lookout
Meadows Below
Gary & John
John Glissades
Diablo Dam
Multiple Switchbacks
Back At Creek
Marsh Marigolds
Coral Root
Hot Trail
Down At Last
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018