Suntop Lookout: A Marvelous Early Summer Drive/Hike To Fabulous ViewsSun Jun 09, 2013
Suntop Lookout is one of our favorite places in the world.
This fire lookout is located at 5280 feet on top of an extinct volcano in the national forest. Access is relatively easy, via Forest Service Road 73 and 7315. Both are gravel roads that are in decent shape, except that 7315 is kind of “washboard-y”, so you won’t be able to drive very fast. There’s been logging in this area so the trees aren’t as tall as elsewhere, but because there’s been logging, the 360-degree views are incredible.
Most days, you can drive to a gate/parking area about a 1-mile walk by road, or a 1/2 mile climb via trail. The Forest Service has to wait for the snow to melt to open the road all the way up, but the snow is melting quickly this year! In July and August, the lookout is often manned by volunteers. On those days, you’ll actually be able to drive all the way to the top.
Assuming the gate is closed, we like to walk up the road and down the trail. Part of this is pure laziness, but we also love the view of Mt. Rainier we get when we come around the back side. It’s an awesome, in-your-face view of this incredible mountain! On past trips, we’ve been lucky enough to spot elk and bobcat up here, but on this particular day, we only saw elk droppings and scat. As you walk up the road, you’ll get incredible views of the Palisades cliffs (if you look really closely, you’ll even see Snoquera Falls in these photos) and you can even see all the way down to Alta Crystal Resort!
The lookout itself is a very cool building, and it’s fun to get a look inside, but the view is the reason to come here. There are picnic tables, and we often bring snacks or lunch and hang out for a while. Re-vegetation efforts are in progress, so there are signs asking you to please stay on the trails.
On the day we took these photos, we had incredible views of Mt. Rainier and Crystal Mountain, plus all the Cascades to the south and east, but clouds were rolling in up north so we couldn’t see quite as far as in times past. But the clouds were awesome, and were moving so fast it felt like time-lapse photography.
You’ll find the trail down near the bulletin board and restrooms, and in the spring, everything is so lush. We couldn’t believe all the shades of green.
All in all, a pretty marvelous way to spend a June afternoon.