13.4 mi rt
gain: 5068 + 1728 = 6796 ft
max: 5982 ft
gpx track, use at your own risk: Sourdough
This hike has a bad rep. People I talk to that have done it say never again. I don’t know why. I loved this hike and would gladly do it again. I made it longer and more elevation gain than normal but hey, what do you expect.
Parking for this hike is at N48 43.060 W121 08.699 just off of Highway 30 in Diablo. The trail starts across the street behind the building. WTA describes this hike as follows:
“Grueling is the hike. Awesome are the views. Supreme is the experience. One of the most challenging trails in the North Cascades, the arduous haul to the historical lookout atop Sourdough Mountain is worth every ounce of sweat you’ll expend. And you’ll expend plenty. A mile straight up and 5.5 on the ground-can you say steep?”
It is a steep trail but really, not that bad. I had spent the night at the campground just half a mile or so down the road and I got up early so to beat the heat of the day. I had read trail reports so I knew that the trail started behind the building, actually slightly to the right if you are standing in the road looking at the building. Right away it passes through a rocky area before it starts going through forests up, up, and up. These are east side forests, not my wet west side ones that I am so use to. At about three miles, you leave the recreational area and enter into National Park, this is why Miranda was not with me ): Once the trail finishes winding and switchbacking it’s way through the forests, it comes out at a creek crossing and then starts side-hilling on the way to the lookout. The views at this point are becoming quite stunning, you can see down into the valley and the lake.
The higher up the hill, the more dramatic the views became. The rock formations on the summit ridge were amazing.
Finally the lookout and my destination came into view. According to the National Park website:
“A historic landmark, the summit of Sourdough was one of the first “lookout” points established by the U.S. Forest Service in 1915. Glee Davis built the original lookout in 1917. A neighboring peak to the west of Sourdough is named for the Davis family. The present building, dating to 1933, was rehabilitated in 1998-99. “Bush” Osborne chose the location to test his fire locating device. The Osborne Firefinder soon became standard equipment in lookouts.”
Sadly, the building is having leaning issues so it is closed and has straps holding it together right now. Hopefully it will be repaired and opened at some point in the future.
The views from the lookout rock are breath taking. I spent a fair amount of time up there by myself. Eventually two people came up, a brother and sister from Seattle. We chatted awhile then I headed down leaving the lookout to them.
The time of day I headed out is the butterfly witching hour and they were out in full force! I love me some butterflies!
On the way out I ran into a younger group of three coming up when I had about 1.25 miles left to go. They were packing in for a nights stay at the camping site at the creek crossing. One had developed blisters so I stopped and pulled out my kit and taped up her foot. What I didn’t notice until I got back to the car is that I had forgotten to zipper up my side pouch and my kit fell out as I started back down the mountain. Grrr. I waited at the car for the bro-sis team and when they came out I asked if they had seen and hopefully packed out my kit. They had seen it but left it in place on a stump where I had dropped it. Now I had to decide whether to hike the 1.4 miles and the 1700 ft gain to go get it. I follow the leave no trace principle so of course the answer was yes. Also, the kit had my small emergency bivy as well as my Swiss army knife I got from some Aussies I met in England in the early 80’s. Those two things alone made it worth it. So back up I went, easily found my kit, and then back down to the car. Since I had this extra fun, I went back to the campground just down the road and spent another night with the nice people I had met there the night before that shared their campsite with me.