The view from Lookout Mountain is spectacular – if you can find it. Nestled between Bellingham’s Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish, Lookout is a relatively low-elevation peak whose summit is easy to reach in a few hours.
With Ken Wilcox’s “Hiking Whatcom County” book as our guide, we set out for the north summit of Lookout Mountain. The trailhead begins off of Lake Louise road in Sudden Valley (Gate 9). Within the gravel service road’s first mile, you will come to a junction. Turn right for a pleasant waterfall loop trail (approximately 1.5 miles), or continue straight for the summit.
We cheated. Parking at the upper Lookout trailhead shaves off about a mile and a half of forest road tromping and gets you to the top that much quicker. “Unfortunately, driving to it can be a bit confusing” claim Forest Finders on Geocaching.com. We found the upper trailhead anyway and were thankful that we did. Confusing directions (and a geocache!) can be found here.
Wherever you choose to begin, the route is pretty straightforward: up. Lookout’s north summit is 2,677 feet – just one foot taller than the south summit. You will be climbing approximately 2,300 of those feet, so be prepared. This one’s bigger than Oyster Dome – though not nearly as steep. The road forks one mile from the lower trailhead at a level clearing. Stay left. The overgrown path leading up to the right is an alternate loop route which requires some navigational skill and bushwhacking. If you don’t have a map, compass, GPS, and machete, it may be best to avoid it.
In two more miles the road forks again, this time at some green boxes. Congratulations, you are ⅔ of the way to the top! Head right for the north summit or left for the south if you’re feeling a bit daring. The south summit reportedly does not have any views and is heavily forested. We went right.
From the fork, an additional 1.5 miles remain. As you near the top, take in some delicious views of Mt Baker and the Twin Sisters. Enjoy it while it lasts – you won’t see them again until your descent. Near the summit the road forks once more. Our ten-year old hiking guide and a posted sign advised us to stay right because “left is restricted”. So right we went, to the north summit of Lookout Mountain. There’s a nice big rock at the top to sit on while eating lunch and listening to the buzz of communication towers overhead. Unfortunately, the fine vista we were expecting is blocked by ten years of new growth.
On the way back down we seriously considered going up the restricted road. We didn't go, but I would advise you to because apparently there is a geocache up there AND a log bench with a fine vista view. Damn. Maybe next time…
Instead we opted for bushwhacking, which I would not recommend. At some point on the road between the green boxes and the summit there is a path which leads to another road which leads to seemingly nothing unless you are very persistent because you are suffering from intensive view-deprivation letdown. If, against all odds, you manage to find such a place you will be rewarded with sweeping views of Lake Samish, the Chuckanut Mountains, and the San Juan Islands beyond them. But seriously, just go up the “restricted” road and find the bench. We enjoyed the view from our perch, snapped a few overexposed photos, and headed back down to the Jeep. Though not as strenuous as Oyster Dome, this hike is rated nearly as high (3.5 pints) due to the aforementioned view-deprivation letdown. Nothing a few Beers at the Bottom can’t cure!
For additional information on Lookout Mountain, including more photos and detailed directions, check out the following:
*The Open Road Before Me: