John Guilford's Hikes
Mt. Pilchuck on 2011-09-09
People: (including myself): Gary Anderson, Dave Tripp, Jay Wardle, Willman Rojas, Kirsten Carlson, Tim Shipe, Glenn Engel, Kathy Hertzog, Phil Hollenhorst, Chris Sutton, Walt Wyman, Mike Gribler, Rich Mills, Bret Banfield, Kyle Berg, Brad Haeger, Brian Barton, Jerry Stone, Colleen Stone, Devin Stone, Skye
Start: 9:30 3160 0
Out of trees: ~10:30
Lookout: 11:20 5324 3
Into trees: ~1:15
It was a beautiful day which felt more like August than September, and a
group from my work decided to take the day to climb Mt. Pilchuck.
While most of Mt. Pilchuck lies inside Mt. Pilchuck State Park, the
trailhead is in the National Forest, thus you need the National Forest
parking permit rather than Washington State's Discover Pass to park at the
Despite starting out at what I thought was a reasonably early hour,
there were quite a few people who were before us, though not as many as
those that followed. The nice weather had something to do with it, I'm
sure. With it as busy as it was on a weekday, I expect it was quite a bit
fuller on the weekend.
The trail is a popular one that sees much traffic. I noticed that
they've done much to improve the trail since I was last there, doing things
like these steps to control erosion. Despite the amount of use it gets,
the trail is in great shape.
The trail starts off in National Forest. About fifteen minutes
into the hike you cross into Mt. Pilchuck State Park, though you'd only
realize it from the sign. The first hour or so of the hike is mostly in
the shade of the trees as the trail climbs up the north flank of the
mountain. As the trees thin, you start getting views of the rocky summit
as well as views across the valley of Three Fingers.
The second half of the climb is more exposed to the sun and is on
rockier trails for much of it. Here it started getting pretty warm in the
sun and I was glad for the two liters of water I brought. There is a
variation of the trail, which is really more of a scramble up rocks, that
leaves the main trail on the left and follows a yellow blazed route up the
ridge line. The start of it used to be better marked. I missed it on the
way up, but found the lower end on the way down.
After about a two hour climb, the summit lookout comes into view.
There is a short rock scramble to get to the ladder that leads up to the
lookout. With our large group as well as the folks there before us, it was
a bit crowded there. Fortunately there is a nice outside walkway around
the lookout as well as the surrounding rocks.
Out group broke up into several parties, with some (more of the
younger people) climbing faster than others (more of the older people).
When we got everyone up to the lookout and had something to eat, we
gathered for the required group photo before beginning the descent back
With the size of our group, as well as other people coming up to the
lookout, it took a little while to get everyone down the ladder and across
the rock scramble to the real trail.
The morning haze burned off a bit midday. We got some nice views
of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan to the north, Glacier Peak to the east, but we
couldn't see Mt. Rainier to the south - that was lost in the haze. Of
course we had real nice views of the nearby peaks such as Three Fingers and
Big Bear Mountain.
There is one place in the trail where the trail squeezes between two
rocks. On the way up it caused a big of momentary confusion before we
located the continuation of the trail. Several other places along the
trail there are warning signs to keep people from wandering off the trail
and possibly getting into trouble.
It was delightfully cooler once I got into the trees on the lower half of
the trail. As on the way up, the party broke up into smaller groups on
descent. For the bottom half, I ended up alone, which gave me a chance to
play with some more photography in my leisure.
View from half way up towards summit.
Three Fingers across the valley with White Horse behind to the left.
Dave pausing at a switchback turnaround.
John (myself) looking up at the lookout. Photo by Tim.
Jerry and Bret at the lookout.
Most of the crew for the summit photo. Photo by Glenn.
John (myself) taking some final pictures before descending. Colleen, Phil,
John, Chris, Willman, and Tim (left to right). Photo by Glenn.
Descending from the lookout.
Jay and Chris heading down with Three Fingers in the background.
Glenn, Jerry, and Colleen heading down.
Narrow place in the trail. Jay, John (myself), Chris. Photo by Glenn.
Dead tree near the trailhead.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015