There’sstill time for hiking in the North Cascades

Published on Thu, Sep 20, 2007 by ara Nelson

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There’s still time for hiking in the North Cascades

By Tara Nelson

Hike: Winchester Mountain
Length: 2.1 miles, one-way
Elevation gain: 300 feet
Difficulty: More difficult

The coming of fall brings cooler temperatures and shorter days, but there are still plenty of hikes in the Mt. Baker wilderness area that can be completed in less than a day. 

One trail with spectacular views that is especially suited for fall hiking is Winchester Mountain, a steep but short trail that winds through beautiful meadows to a well-preserved fire lookout with perfect panoramic views of Mt. Baker, Shuksan, American Border peak and the rugged peaks of the North Cascades. Some hikers have also reported seeing the ocean at sunset.

The two-mile trail starts between Twin Lakes and switchbacks through sub-alpine forests and meadows with constant views of the North Cascades before curving around the mountain to the fire lookout at 6,500 feet.

The lookout, which is maintained by the Mt. Baker Club, is available on a first-come, first-serve basis and provides sleeping areas for two. Alpine flowers and wild blueberries are abundant along most of the trail and are flavorful with hints of apples and bananas. Use caution when traversing across an exposed red rock wall as the trail is somewhat eroded.

Directions:
Take State Route 542 east past Glacier approximately 13.5 miles. Turn left on Forest Service Road 3065. Look for a sign that reads “Tomyhoi Trail 5, Twin Lakes 7”.

The road is steep and rough for 4.5 miles to the trailhead of Yellow Aster Butte and becomes incredibly bumpy the last two miles to Twin Lakes as it becomes a section of unmaintained road with steep drop-offs and no room for passing. A four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance may be required past the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead and many individuals park and walk up the steep road. Road conditions are available by checking in with the ranger station near Glacier.
Once at the top, plenty of parking and picnic areas are available at the lakes. Camping and fires are also permitted. A toilet is also located near the lookout.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest office in Sedro-Woolley maintains an online data base of hiking trails at www.fs.fed.us.

Note of caution:
The Forest Service reports that steep snow slopes below the lookout can hold snow well into summer and recommends indivuduals check with the ranger station for conditions before hiking.