Enjoy amazing views of the Sauk and Skagit river basins, and that's just from the trailhead parking lot! From the summit of this former fire lookout the views are beyond amazing. They're superlatively stupendous! And the wildflowers. Tread this way in mid-July for a floral show second to none. Short and sweet and just a tad bit steep, a score-plus set of switchbacks sets you on your way to this scenic summit.
A familiar landmark in the Skagit Valley, with its hogback summit and verdant meadow-draped western slopes, Sauk Mountain is recognizable from I-5. It's a popular hike, best avoided on sunny summer weekends.
Starting at the edge of a meadow, views begin immediately and never let up. Virtually the entire way is in the open-great if there's a refreshing breeze, stifling on hot afternoons. And because the first half of the hike is entirely within meadows, biting, buzzing, driving-you-crazy bugs are legion. Hey, somebody has to pollinate all those pretty blossoms.
Pass by an A-frame privy, one of my favorite outback outhouses in the Cascades. Enjoy a short stretch to warm up and then commence switching and backing up Sauk's steep west face. Harebell, lupine, daisy, parsley, thimbleberry, paintbrush, thistle, columbine, fireweed - how many different blossoms can you spot?
The way steadily gains elevation up the herbaceous hillside flush with scads of scurrying grasshoppers. Brushy at times, the trail sports hidden marmot holes and other potential ankle twisters. And be careful not to kick rocks below onto other Sauk summit seekers. You'll occasionally and briefly dip into cool forest groves, escaping the sun. Then it's back into the open.
After 1.3 miles of steady climbing, crest the hogback ridge (elev. 5200 ft). Pause and take in the amazing views south to the confluence of the Saukand Skagit, the Finney Block, Glacier Peak, and Whitehorse. Look east to the Helen Buttes, the Pickets, Teebone Ridge, and the big green valley cut by the Cascade River.
Now skirting below crags, the trail turns north to head for the summit. At 1.5 miles, come to a junction. The trail right loses 1200 feet on its way toSauk Lake. Stay left and soon you'll be able to see Sauk Lake twinkling below in an emerald bowl between Sauk and Bald mountains.
The final stretch traverses a somewhat rocky area where lingering snowfields may warrant some caution. Once on the 5537-foot summit, the same summit that beatnik poet Philip Whalen worked on in 1953, find a nook and grab your journal. Scan the horizons and let inspiration fly. Take in Mounts Baker, Blum, Shuksan, and Tomyhoi, the Pickets, the Olympics, even Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. Too many more to count, but plenty to enjoy.
Driving Directions to Sauk Mountain from I-5
From Burlington (exit 230 on I-5), head east on the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) for 36.5 miles to the Rockport State Park boundary at milepost 96 (7 miles east of Concrete and 1.5 miles west of the junction with SR 530). Turn left onto Forest Road 1030 (signed "Sauk Mountain Road"). Follow this steep, washboard-prone road for 7.5 miles to a fork. Bear right and continue 0.25 mile to the trailhead (elev. 4350 ft).