|The North Cascades viewed from Green Mountain|
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous due to snow conditions; moderate after snowmelt
Access: Long, bumpy gravel road to trailhead, no pass required
Buried deep in Washington State's North Cascades, Green Mountain is a much more exciting (and unique) destination than its generic name would suggest: the summit lookout boasts a dizzying panorama of peaks that is unforgettable even for a state packed with impressive views. The hike to the summit passes through the many open meadows that give the peak its name and ends at a historic fire lookout. Early season hikers who arrive before the snowmelt completes face a trail-less climb to the summit through the snow but also the opportunity to glissade the better part of a thousand feet down the south face of the peak. Midsummer hikers will find fields full of flowers, while early autumn visitors are welcomed by sprawling patches of huckleberries on the mountain's upper slopes. This hike was long inaccessible due to the washout of the Suiattle River Road; even with the road restored, it's still a long, bumpy drive from Seattle to this spot in the heart of the Cascades.
I've made two trips out to Green Mountain: the first was on an early autumn day a few years back, not long after the Suiattle River Road reopened. Although I found beautiful autumn color in the meadows and some ripe berries, the mountaintop was socked in all day and I missed out on the lookout's views. On my second trip, I found both blooming wildflowers and a snowy summit in early June; cloud cover was high enough on my second visit for me to see much of the vast sea of peaks surrounding Green Mountain, but overcast skies still blocked out views of Glacier Peak, Dome Peak, and Mount Baker.
I headed out to Green Mountain from Seattle with three friends, following I-5 north to Arlington and then Washington Highway 530 east past Darrington. After crossing the Sauk River bridge on Highway 530, I turned right at the Suiattle River Road and followed it 19 miles, first on pavement and later on decent gravel, to the junction with the road to the Green Mountain trailhead. The final six miles of the drive followed an even bumpier road up the forested slopes of Green Mountain; while there were some potholes along the way, the road was generally in passable condition and I made it to the trailhead in a sedan with no problems. The trailhead itself is not particularly well marked and is noticeable only due to a widening in the road on the right; the trail starts to the left of the road.
The trail set off into the forest and immediately began a steady ascent. At one point, the trail approached a small, tumbling stream and at other points we passed by some stately trees, but otherwise the first mile and a half of the trail was fairly nondescript. One exception was the trillium that lined the trail at the upper reaches of the forest, just before the trail entered a large meadow: white, pink, and violet trillium were in full bloom on the forest floor.
|Trillium blooming in the forest|
|Open meadows of Green Mountain|
|Lower meadow along the trail|
The trail descended down the hill into a basin holding a small pond, which in early June was still mostly covered by five or so feet of snow. Continuing a little further in the snow, we arrived at a basin at the foot of the south face of Green Mountain, about a thousand vertical feet below the summit. In the summer, these open slopes are filled with heather and other blooming wildflowers; in late summer and early autumn, the mountainside turns into a berry buffet. When we arrived, the steep slopes were snowbound, which made for promising terrain for a post-summit glissade.
|Perfect glissading terrain|
|View from atop the glissade chute|
|Final approach to the lookout|
|Green Mountain Lookout|
Much of the peak's viewshed is encompassed by Glacier Peak Wilderness, which covers over half a million acres in Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. Combined with the Henry Jackson and Wild Sky Wildernesses to the south and the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth and Stephen Mather Wildernesses to the east, Glacier Peak Wilderness is part of the largest roadless region in Washington State.
|Glissading down from the summit|