Park Butte is consistently ranked as one of the best day hikes in the North Cascades. This well-maintained trail meanders through wildflower fields, crosses raging streams, passes tarns and a pretty lake, and finally climbs to a historic 1930s fire lookout with 360-degree views of the Mount Baker Wilderness. You'll also find trailhead and backcountry campsites, and you'll have the option of sleeping in the lookout on a first-come, first-served basis. Summer weekends can become crowded, but even then you can usually find solitude along Park Butte Trail.
Begin along a dirt path that leaves from behind the restrooms and continues past the picnic tables before crossing over Sulphur Creek into Schreibers Meadow. Lined with heather in the summer and mushrooms and mountain berry bushes in the fall, the trail becomes a boardwalk before returning to dirt. This first mile is easy, and it passes in and out of the forest, offering occasional glimpses of Mount Baker to the north. Cross a seasonal bridge over glacial Rocky Creek, then climb up a series of switchbacks.
After 2.4 miles you will reach a junction with Railroad Grade Trail. This mile-long path leads to Mount Baker's Easton Glacier, a popular climbing route. Continue along the Park Butte Trail to the large, open Upper Morovitz Meadow. Streams trickle throughout, and snowfields often linger during summer. Trekking poles are a good idea.
Backpackers should check out Cathedral Camp, an established backcountry camping area just off of the main trail. The final mile from here is the most challenging and rewarding yet. Pass picturesque Pocket Lake, then spot Park Butte Lookout on its high perch and gain it. From the lookout, Mount Baker and the Black Buttes dominate the northern skyline. To the west, peer down on the Nooksack Valley and across to the Twin Sisters Range. Glacier Peak, and sometimes Mount Rainier, can be spotted to the south, while Baker Lake lies to the east. Head inside the lookout for a room with a view.