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Hike to Winchester Lookout

Whatcom County, Washington



3.4 miles

Elevation Gain

1300 ft

Route Type



Added by Lucas Boland

Spend a night in comfort in the heart of the North Cascades! Beauty in every direction for the price of a quick hike.

Winchester Lookout is one of my favorite lookouts that I've been to in Washington. Because of its being in the North Cascades National Park (since 1935), it naturally has stellar views that you can't get anywhere else. This is a great hike to do in the late afternoon in order to take in the sunset, then stars, and then a sunrise in the morning. And the best part of it all is, of course: you get to spend the night in the great outdoors in the great indoors!

From Seattle, it takes about three hours without traffic to reach the trailhead. Because it's so far away, it tends to stay slightly less busy. I went on a weekday in October and only had to compete with one other hiker for space in the lookout. To get there from Seattle you'll simply head north on I-5 until you reach Exit 236, follow the signs to get on Bow Hill Road, get on WA-9 shortly thereafter, and then take that until you reach WA-542 E. That road will take you to National Forest Develop Road 3065, which will bring you to the trailhead. The road can be somewhat difficult to navigate, so a high clearance car will serve you well. You'll follow the road until you end up in a small parking lot in between two lakes, the Twin Lakes. The trailhead will be easy to locate at the far end of the parking lot.

The hike itself is somewhat steep, but short, and shouldn't take more than an hour and a half to complete. The elevation gain is 1300 feet over 1.7 miles one way. The trail is pretty straightforward, with only one fork at .9 miles in, though both will lead you to the lookout (one is the snow route).  You'll have a nice view from the start, but it gets even better as you continue upwards. Once you get to the summit, be sure to stake out your spot for the night before exploring the area.

The fire lookout is open year round, but can certainly be difficult to access in the winter months and even holds a healthy amount of snow into July. Enjoy the hike and stars! 

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