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Sourdough Mountain

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
48.7179, -121.1455 Map & Directions
10.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
4,870 feet
Highest Point
5,985 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Photo by trip reporter Varun Chadha. Full-size image
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Summits

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The mountainous views that once inspired beatnik poets continue to inspire modern-day hikers who take on this strenuous yet rewarding challenge. Continue reading

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Hiking Sourdough Mountain

The mountainous views that once inspired beatnik poets continue to inspire modern-day hikers who take on this strenuous yet rewarding challenge.

Sourdough Mountain was one of the first lookouts established by the U.S. Forest Service. Stimulated by the breathtaking scenery at the summit, beatnik poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, who worked as lookouts during the 1950s, each found Sourdough Mountain to be their muse. The current lookout tower, built in 1933 and restored in 1998, is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.

The trail to Sourdough’s summit wastes no time letting its true intention be known: to climb up and out of the towering conifers into open meadowlands with breathtaking views galore. In the first 2 miles alone, hikers will be faced with a climb of 3,000 vertical feet. The grueling switchbacks will seem endless, but rest assured they are not. The forest gradually thins, offering some motivating peekaboo views of what lies ahead.

At 4 miles, carefully cross rushing Sourdough Creek, the trail’s first water source, before continuing your ascent on more gently graded tread. Alternating through charming groves of sub-alpine forest and wide-open expanses of vibrant wildflowers, you will be so occupied taking in views of the glaciated peaks that line the horizon, you’ll scarcely remember how much effort you expended to reach this point.

One last push through a series of switchbacks brings you to the broad summit of Sourdough Mountain. Linger a while and be rejuvenated by the 360-degree views sprawling before you. Mount Prophet and Hozomeen Mountain dominate the northern skyline, while Jack Mountain rises to 9,000 feet in the east, the jagged Picket Range lines the horizon to the west, and to the south, Pyramid and Colonial Peaks jut high above the turquoise waters of Diablo Lake, nearly a vertical mile below.

Hike Description Written by
Lindsay Leffelman, WTA Correspondent

Sourdough Mountain

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.7179, -121.1455 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

A $26 backcountry permit is required to camp overnight in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex (incl. Ross Lake National Rec Area and Lake Chelan National Rec Area). Permits must be picked up in person at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount. See the National Park Service website for more information.

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee


WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Marblemount, drive SR 20 east for 20 miles. Turn left on Diablo Road and proceed 0.7 mile. Cross the Stetattle Creek bridge, bear right and reach the trailhead in 0.25 mile.

More Hike Details


North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

North Cascades National Park

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Diablo No. 48

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Sourdough Mountain

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