Sourdough Mountain Trail is a classic--a grueling trail hike, historic lookout site, wildflower displays, and incredible mountain views in every direction. At 5,000 ft of gain in 5 miles (one-way), it provides one of the most rigorous workouts of any trail in the North Cascades. The current lookout sits on the site of one of the first fire lookouts in the nation. To this day, in times of severe fire danger, the lookout is put back into service and once again it is human eyes and not technology that become the first line of defense of these arid mountains.
This classic mountain hike begins in a most unlikely location - behind the swimming pool in the town of Diablo. The trail stays in the forest with only a few obvious viewpoints until reaching sparkling Sourdough Creek and Camp. Steep switchbacks in meadows and sparse trees lead to the rocky knoll on which the lookout is located. Bring a copy of Geology of the North Cascades and you’ll not only identify but also understand the origins of the many mountains surrounding you. Some of the names may seem obvious, Snowfield, Pyramid and Terror. Below, the lakes, dams and ribbon of highway define the valley floor. Past the lookout, the trail drops over rocky ridges and heather to Pierce Mt. Camp and down to the West Bank Trail.
A permit is required to camp at either of the campsites, so check with the Backcountry US Parks Office in Marblemount, and have alternate plans ready if the sites are signed out. If you are planning to do the loop over the mountain, most people enjoy going up the West Bank (Ross Lake) side and down the Sourdough Trail.
So for a heart-pounding workout, fantastic mountain views, or a visit to a high country historic site, find out what makes this a "classic" for you.
Take North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) to milepost. Turn left on the road to Diablo Townsite and continue for one mile. Park across the street from covered swimming pool. The trailhead is to left of the pool.
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San Juan Islands