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Sourdough Lookout

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades, Washington

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Sourdough Lookout

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  • The trailhead starts to the left of this storage unit.- Sourdough Lookout
  • Ruby Mountain seen from the trail.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The trail gets very dusty in dry weather.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The summit flattens and becomes rocky just before reaching the lookout tower.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The lookout tower is not accessible.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The tower is in excellent condition, but it is off limits to the public.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The lookout tower is not actually on Sourdough Mountain, which lies approximately 1 mile northwest.- Sourdough Lookout
  • The lookout tower is on a broad, flat plateau.- Sourdough Lookout
  • This creek is the only reliable source of water on the trail late in the summer or in the dry season.- Sourdough Lookout
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Options for backpacking. Historical site.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
North Cascades, WA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
4,870.00 ft (1,484.38 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
10.40 mi (16.74 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,115.00 ft (339.85 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Driving on Highway 20 through North Cascades National Park, the mountains tower high above on both sides. Getting up any of them seems like a daunting task from the asphalt, but that’s exactly what the trail to Sourdough Lookout (5,985 feet) offers. The reward: an excellent workout, nice views, wildflowers and a nice day enjoying the outdoors.

Start at the trailhead located in Diablo, a few hundred feet from Gorge Lake Campground. Cross a bridge after a quarter-mile hike. The creek might be the last reliable source of water in late summer or when it’s been dry for an extended period. You might want to fill up because the trail gains elevation fast and steadily.

The ascent is long and grueling. The dusty trail switchbacks through a forest of conifers that progressively thins, leading to more colorful wildflowers. At a little over 4 miles, Sourdough Camp is reached, which is the spot for those making this outing into a backpacking trip. Sourdough Creek is a few hundred feet farther, but the water is scarce in late summer. Carrying a straw and filter is a wise move.

From there, a mere mile separates hikers from the Sourdough Lookout Tower, most of which is on the rather flat, rocky summit. The lookout tower, which used to be a fire tower, is not located on the true summit, which lies about 1 mile northwest. No maintained trail goes to the true summit, but it’s an easy scramble for motivated hikers. There are views all around, most notably of the Picket Range, Davis Peak, Diablo Lake, Jack Mountain and Ruby Mountain.

The return trip is via the same trails used for the ascent. Make sure to adjust the trekking poles for the descent to give your knees a break.

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Field Guide

Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(17 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(45 within a 30 mile radius)

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