Hiking Suntop Lookout Trail
A Beautiful Perspective
Ten miles north of Mt. Rainier, located in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Suntop Lookout sits at an elevation of 5,270' and overlooks the valleys of the White River and Huckleberry Creek. On a clear day, the views go on for miles, reaching all the way to the Olympic Mountains to the west and Mt. Baker to the north. Originally built in 1933 to watch for forest fires, the lookout is now open to the public. Hiking to the peak can either be challenging if you opt for the 16 mile route or easy if you choose the 0.5 mile option. Still not easy enough? You can also drive all the way to the top.
A Sunny Hike to Suntop
On this warm, sunny day we hiked the mere half mile route to Suntop. Conveniently, there is a parking area, then a short walk up a dirt road to the trail head. The trail is clearly marked and leads into a stand of forest. The scent of pine was heavy in the air and most welcome. The trail was lined on either side by bear grass and was deep rut sort of path. The trail is a short, mildly steep route to the top.
We soon left the tree cover and the rocky surroundings were covered in low shrubbery. The once verdant hues of summer were giving way to the burnished yellows, reds and oranges of autumn. Here and there was a lingering wildflower, not yet ready to give up the season. Birds chirped and sang while moving from tree to tree and the occasional chipmunk paused just long enough for a us to get a glimpse. The day was warm, but the air held the crisp, unmistakable feel of Fall. What a perfect day to be outside!
Views from the Top
Very soon we were at the end of the trail looking up at the lookout. The trail abuts the end of the road that one can easily drive to the top. There's a vault toilet here and trails that lead in all directions for exploring this mountaintop. A few wooden picnic tables are provided for visitors. Across the road is the way to the lookout. There was a family of volunteers occupying the lookout and tending the gated road. We were unable to go inside since it was inhabited for the time. We explored the exterior and all around to enjoy the views.
Mt. Rainier is quite a sight from this viewpoint. Really, there are views in every direction. On a clear day like this day, we didn't lack for views. We mistakenly left our tripod in the Jeep and after exploring a bit, decided to hike back and drive back up. The hike back was as lovely as on the way up and we were quickly back at our vehicle. The drive back up was quick. We again wandered around here at the top and set up the tripod to capture the best views.
While this is a really short trail, it is amazingly lovely. The views on a clear day are quite remarkable and the charm of exploring a lookout tower is a definite bonus. There are opportunities to spend overnights in the lookout, as the above mentioned family was doing. This would be an incredible spot for stargazing given the ability to spend the night. Even if an overnight isn't in your future or even of interest, this is a terrific place for a picnic and to connect with nature. Quiet, remote, remarkable---we recommend it!
Helpful Information for Suntop Lookout
Coordinates of Parking Lot: 47°02'10.6"N 121°35'50.3"W
Elevation Gain: 501'
Highest Point: 5,189'
Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Pass Required: Northwest Forest