This one REQUIRES a clear day. It’s a short gorgeous hike, but it’s all about the views. You’d be hard pressed to find a better “bang for your buck” view hike than Heybrook Lookout. It’s one of Washington’s famous fire lookout towers. These towers are built for maximum visibility — that means views! Luckily, you don’t have to be scanning the horizon for blazes. Just enjoy the views of the Skykomish Valley with a relatively short hike (just over a mile) and be back at your car in about an hour.
First, a word on gear: This is a perfect time to add microspikes to your gear collection, if you don’t already have them. They are exactly the right tool for hikes like this one at this time of year, which is covered with hard packed snow and ice. These conditions can occur through early summer in the Pacific Northwest for many trails. Microspikes are like chains for your tires, but you strap them over your hiking boots or shoes, giving you some metal teeth to grip on the slippery stuff. (They were also perfect in the aftermath of Seattle’s Snowmaggedon, when sidewalks were semi-shoveled and caked with ice and snow — I put mine over my rainboots to walk to Metropolitan Market). Unlike snowshoes, which are for the deep fluffy stuff, microspikes are for the hard stuff, and are very easy to take on and off, and are small enough to tuck in a pocket in your pack. On this hike, I saw a bunch of hikers without spikes, and while it is doable in good hiking boots, those without spikes were slipping and sliding on the trail, especially on the way down. You’ll feel like a mountain goat as you pick your way up even the slickest sections.
The trailhead for Heybrook Lookout is really just a wide shoulder parking area on the side of Route 2, just past Gold Bar, at milepost 37, immediately after the sign for the Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest. Park and look for the signboard just off the highway. The trail initially heads east, through moss-draped trees, and is a steady but manageable climb. The trail is popular and well-trodden, even in the snow. The road noise will disappear, as you get deeper into the forest. Before you know it, you’ll break out into the sunshine, and the six-story lookout will be in front of you. There has been a lookout here since 1932, though it’s been rebuilt several times. You can even rent out the accommodations at the top, from May - Sept. But for now, climb to the top to the observation platform and feast your eyes on the snow-covered peaks in all directions. Mt. Baring is directly to the east, with a twin-peaked top. If you’ve picked a clear day, you can also spy Mt. Index with Bridal Veil Falls pouring down one side. After the obligatory selfie, head back to your car and be back in Seattle in just about an hour. For a bite to eat on the way home, stop at the Wallace Falls Cafe in Gold Bar.