Thorp Mountain Lookout via Thorp Creek Trail #1316
Try this alternative approach to the Thorp Mountain Lookout which has the advantage of experience a lot of the surrounding landscape.
Total Distance: 6.5 miles Total Ascent: 2300ft Highest Point: 5854ft
Difficulty: Hard Our Hiking Time: 5h 20m Required Permit: None
To get there, take I-90 to Exit 80. Head left over the freeway following Bullfrog Road to SR 903. Follow 903 for 16 miles through Roslyn and along Cle Elum Lake to FR 4308. Turn left onto FR 4308 and follow a little over 3 miles to a signed intersection. Head right down FR 4312 for the Thorp Creek Trail. Continue on FR 4312 for a mile and a half to a gated spur veering to the right. Find a spot to park here and hit the trail. View Google Directions >>
Most hikers approach Thorp Mountain from the Knox Creek Trailhead, which is both shorter and easier than the Thorp Creek Trail we hiked. This approach is made more complicated by the absence of a bridge over Thorp Creek near the trailhead. The creek can be fast-flowing and ice-cold during the spring thaw, so depending on the time of year, be sure to cross with caution.
Once across follow a converted logging road as it parallels the creek and takes you through recovering clearcuts. Slide alders and huckleberries line the trail, rising above the grass and brush that cannot quite disguise acres of bleached snags and stumps. Younger firs and pines eventually begin to appear, making this area more attractive to wildlife we managed to stumble upon some elk and deer on our way up. Soon the trail begins in earnest, quickly transitioning from mild switchbacks to steeper grades.
Alas, we were not able to evade the lingering snows. We quickly lost the trail and found ourselves slogging up the icy mountainside. Still, we found the junction leading the half-mile down to Thorp Lake but chose to forge on to the ridgeline, and the rocky climb up to the lookout. This last stretch is a little steep, but the expansive views from the lookout are more than worth it. Mount Rainier rose above the shimmering blue of Kachess Lake. Nearby Red Mountain is easy to pick out to the northeast. Below, Thorp Lake is nestled amongst the trees. And beyond, the horizon is filled with hundreds of snow-topped peaks. Find a spot to settle down to take it all in.
We liked this approach. It was a little more difficult, but it definitely made up for it in solitude. It also offers the possibility of making a loop out to the summit of Red Mountain following trails once used to connect the lookouts. The parts of the trail that were not covered in snow were in pretty good shape, but its still probably not for everyone. With over 2000ft of elevation in a little over three miles, it will definitely give your legs a work out. If youre looking for a quiet alternative to a popular destination with some amazing views, give Thorp Creek Trail a try.