Snowshoe to Park Butte

Park Butte Trail

Distance

7.5 Miles

Elevation Gain

2200 Feet

Activities

Camping, Snowshoeing, Backpacking

Skill

Intermediate

Season

Autumn, Winter

Type

Out-and-Back

Forest
Scenic

Fantastic 4-season hike or snowshoe to a historic lookout at the base of Mt. Baker. Sleeping inside the lookout is quite the reward for a snowshoe overnight trip!

From Highway 20 in Concrete, take a left on Baker River Rd (USFS #11). Follow to USFS #12, then USFS #13 which dead-ends at the trailhead (#603). A Northwest Forest Pass is required, as is a SnoPark Pass November-April.

Starting at an elevation of 3250 ft, the trail quickly intersects with the Scott Paul Trail; stay left for the shortest route. Turning right would bring you on the less-traveled Scott Paul, meeting up with the main route to Park Butte in 6.5 miles rather than 1.8.

On the shorter route, continue through a beautiful meadow (potentially blanketed in snow!). This is a popular route so it's likely the path is defined even if snow-covered. If making first tracks, be sure to have the navigation tools and skills necessary to find your way. Cross boulder fields and the rushing Rocky Creek before climbing switchbacks through the forest.

As promised, in 1.8 miles you will meet up with the Scott Paul Trail at 4400 ft. Continue left, and enter another panoramic meadow with epic views of Koma Kulshan on a clear day. In a short 0.4 miles, the trail intersects with the Railroad Grade Trail (#603.2). This is a great side trip up the terminal moraine of the Easton Glacier. Use caution especially in winter, the narrow path is on a high ridge for 3 miles one-way until the hiking ends and a route to summit Baker begins.

At the Railroad Grade intersection, stay left to reach the Park Butte Lookout. Descend briefly through meadows before climbing the final stretch to the lookout (a total of 1.3 miles). The lookout is at 5450 ft of elevation and located on an isolated rocky outcropping. The shutters are likely closed in fall, winter, and spring, but easily propped open to enter the lookout.

Staying in the lookout is first-come, first-serve, although sharing with fellow hikers is always a fun experience. One creaky but comfy bed can sleep 2, with plenty of floor space for up to 4 more. Don't forget to sign the register and wake up for sunrise!

Check out this adventure for the warmer season hike.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Be prepared! Not intermediate!

Attempted May 21, with snow traction devices and overnight gear as we planned to spend the night up top. Walked 1.2 miles to trailhead as the road was blocked by snow. As expected, the entire trail was under snow. Kept going for several more miles but things got too dicey after the trail splits off from the main one going to Baker. There were absolutely no visible trail markers so we were relying entirely on GPS and a map on our phones. Not even a marker for the trailhead, which is beside the washrooms. Tried to follow the trail approximately, up the steep incline covered in snow. No signs of the summer trail were visible due to the snow and lack of markers, so we were guessing and bushwhacking our way up and down the slope. Dicey with our regular traction devices and I think it would be too steep going downhill with snowshoes. Maybe proper mountaineering crampons with inch long spikes would work. Eventually turned around due to slow pace and unfamiliarity with the trail. I’d recommend going only if you’ve done the trail before, and better yet, if you’ve done it in winter or you have winter backcountry experience, and armed with excellent traction and a good GPS and detailed trail map. I’m looking forward to successfully doing the summer hike version of this in a couple of months.

Distance

7.5 Miles

Elevation Gain

2200 Feet

Activities

Camping, Snowshoeing, Backpacking

Skill

Intermediate

Season

Autumn, Winter

Type

Out-and-Back

Nearby Adventures

Adventure

Backpack the Easton Glacier Railroad Grade

Adventure

Backpack Park Butte

Adventure

Hike to Park Butte Lookout

Adventure

Climb Mt. Baker via the Easton Glacier Route

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