• Activities:

    Camping, Snowshoeing, Backpacking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Autumn, Winter

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    7.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2200 Feet

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.

Pack List

  • Northwest Forest Pass (and SnoPark Pass?)
  • Microspikes, crampons, and/or snowshoes depending on conditions
  • Layers for winter camping
  • Camera to capture Koma Kulshan
  • 10 essentials including add-ons for winter
  • Adult beverages for your cocoa

Note: be prepared to have the lookout already occupied on your arrival. This could mean sweet-talking your new friends to share, setting up a tent you brought, or turning around with head lamps.

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Emily Noyd

Wilderness ranger in Yosemite National Park. Raised by Washington mountains and Puget Sound islands. I live for sunrise, backcountry cooking, climbing, roadtrips, and coffee.

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