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Hike of the week: Park Butte Trail

Hike description: Get up close and personal with Mount Baker on the Park Butte Trail on a hike to a fire lookout. However, be prepared to be up close with crowds of hikers, too. Fret not, the scenery and varying terrain is well worth sharing.

Start the hike crossing Sulphur Creek and enter Schriebers Meadow, a haven for huckleberries in season. The trail crosses Rocky Creek on a suspension bridge, which is usually in place July-October. Some years, the bridge is damaged or the creek changes its course, so check with the local ranger district about the trail conditions before setting out.

The trail starts to climb through forest, reaching a junction at 2 miles for the Scott Paul Trail on the right. Keeping to the left, the grade of the Park Butte Trail grade gets gentler as you enter the Upper Morovitz Meadow with expansive views all around. At the next trail junction, for the Bell Pass Trail, go left for the Park Butte Lookout. The last half-mile is steep. Once there, you can view dots of climbers heading up to summit Mount Baker. The lookout is open to overnight stays on a first-come basis, but day users are welcome to sit for a while. Take a long, well-deserved break to savor the views before heading back the way you came.

Directions: Follow state Route 20 east for 16 miles to milepost 82. Turn left on the Baker Lake Highway. At 12 miles, turn left on Forest Service Road 12. Travel 3.6 miles to the junction of Forest Service Road 13. Stay to right and follow Road 13 for 5.3 miles. The trailhead is at the end of Road 13. Passenger vehicles are prohibited from parking in the stock parking areas from Aug. 1-Oct. 31.

Difficulty rating: 3 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 7.5

Elevation: 2,200 feet

Best time of year: July to October

Map: Green Trails 45-Hamilton

Pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Also: Privy at the trailhead and near the lookout. Overnight camping at the trailhead. This trail is open to stock from Aug. 1-Nov. 1 and to llamas all year. Pack out all of your trash. The lookout is maintained by a volunteer group, so be respectful during your visit.

Info: For road and trail conditions, including status of water crossings: www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs; Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District, Sedro Wooley, 360-856-5700.

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.

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