Up Highway 20 just before the small city of Concrete is a turnoff for Baker Lake. This area is really popular in the summer for camping and fishing. If you head a little past Baker Lake you find several forest service roads which take you out in the foothills where several really nice trails exist.
Park Butte is my third lookout I’ve hiked to in Washington. They all are a little different. Some allow overnight stays while others do not. Some are open year around while others close during late fall and winter. Park Butte is on the south side of Mt. Baker and offers spectacular views of the mountain through fields covered in fall colors.
The trail starts out meandering through a meadow with little elevation gain. There is a fairly wide river or mountain runoff stream to cross. When we were there, a temporary metal bridge was placed over the river to allow crossing. I just read that it has been removed for the winter. With the recent rains I would not want to try crossing that river without a bridge. That is some fast moving water! Once you cross over the bridge the trail starts a steady climb up to another meadow. The climb is through the forest and occasionally offers peekaboo views over the valley. We had some low clouds so some of the view was obstructed, however I always like the view when you are actually above the cloud cover. It looks like you are on top of cotton balls or marshmallow cream!
When you climb out of the forest, you enter a large meadow that is currently covered with fall colors. The ground cover leaves were a deep red color, which was a nice fore ground against the white glaciers of Mt. Baker. Across the meadow we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Baker. It always seems so strange to be standing so close to glaciers. You can see the creases and blue coloring of the ice.
From the meadow you start climbing again to get up to the lookout. I’ll be honest you can see the lookout from the meadow and it looks so far away. Like crazy far away! The trail winds it way up and around the rocks. You walk parallel to the lookout for quite awhile. It can get a little discouraging as it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress to the lookout. Outside of the view of Mt. Baker there really isn’t much to see on this hike. The landscape is pretty dry and rocky unfortunately.
One exciting part on the trek up to the lookout was the sighting of a black foraging in a meadow. When I first saw the bear I wasn’t quite sure what it was, until it moved! It was a ways away so it was pretty exciting to see! It made the long trek up the hill go by quickly as we were easily distracted by seeing what the bear was doing. This was my first time seeing a bear int he wild on a hike! Pretty cool!!
The lookout was pretty busy so we didn’t stay very long. We moved off to the side to sit and have lunch looking out over a valley as the fog moved in. While we were eating lunch a group of horseback riders came up to the lookout. Never seen that on a trail before! They were pretty funny and immediately broke out their Coors Light to enjoy at the lookout!
It was starting to get kinda chilly so we headed back down. Another lookout hike to check off the list!