Historic Pilchuck lookout reopens thanks to volunteers

VERLOT — The views are stunning from the top of Mount Pilchuck.

At 5,324 feet, it’s such a good vantage point, a lookout shelter was built there nearly a century ago to watch for forest fires.

That lookout, long since converted into a place for hikers to enjoy the views and take a break from the elements, was closed for much of the summer as a result of snow damage from last winter’s storms.

Now, thanks to a cadre of volunteers from the Everett Mountaineers and others, the Pilchuck lookout has reopened.

The three-mile hike up Pilchuck is one of the most popular in Snohomish County, officials said.

On nice days, as many as 250 people climb more than 2,200 feet to the summit, said Diane Boyd, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman who works at the Verlot Public Service Center near the Pilchuck trailhead.

Boyd said she’s heard nothing but praise from hikers for the newly refurbished lookout.

“They’re all ecstatic about it,” she said.

The Pilchuck lookout is owned by Wallace Falls State Park but upkeep is the responsibility of the Mountaineers, said Arthur Wright, a volunteer who specializes in lookout maintenance.

During a spring visit, Wright said he noticed considerable damage to the nearly 200-square-foot building. Some of the wooden beams were rotted. The railing, protecting visitors from falling off the mountain, had collapsed. The foundation was askew, he said.

“The weight of the snow and ice pulled it loose,” Wright said.

Fixing the shelter is no easy task. There’s no road. All the materials and tools needed to be hauled up.

Snohomish County Search and Rescue offered to carry some beams by helicopter. The rest was carried by volunteers, including a large group from Microsoft.

“It was invigorating,” said Craig Cyr, one of the Microsoft employees who helped. “To know that the lookout was closed and that we had the chance to get it open for the hiking community was truly exciting.”

The Redmond software company also donated about $2,000, an incentive to encourage employees to help community efforts, Cyr said.

Help came from unexpected groups too, Wright said.

One day, a tour group of Russian singers helped carry two-by-fours. At the summit, they serenaded the group working on the lookout.

Another day, a piece of lumber was left at the trailhead with a note attached asking for a volunteer to haul it to the top.

“Someone picked it up,” he said. “That’s way cool.”

The Mountaineers next plan to fix up the lookout atop Three Fingers, the nearly 7,000-foot peak north of Pilchuck.

Volunteers on Three Fingers will have to hike nearly 14 miles round trip and traverse a glacier.

It’s worth it, Wright said.

“You can get some tremendous views,” he said. “They put fire lookouts where the views were good.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or

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