A History of the Green Mountain Lookout
The Green Mountain Lookout is located in the western portion of the 573,000-acre Glacier Peak Wilderness near Darrington, Wash. The Civilian Conservation Corps built it in 1933 as part of a fire detection system in the North Cascade Mountains. The lookout served in this role into the 1980s. As aerial fire detection became more prevalent, fire staffing was gradually replaced by wilderness ranger staffing. The spectacular view and relatively easy four-mile-long trail to the summit has made it a popular destination for Northwest hikers for decades.
The severe winters at this exposed 6,500 foot mountaintop have put the building and its foundation to the test. The building was closed to the public in the mid-1990s due to a hazardous catwalk and a failing foundation of loose rock.
A number of lookouts and cabins had been present within and around northwest forest Wildernesses in the 1960s and 1970s. These structures began to be eliminated due to weathering, fewer resources to maintain them, and abandonment. People became concerned these structures and heritage would be lost. As a result of increasing public interest, in 1987 Green Mountain and five other Wilderness lookouts on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest were listed on the National Register of Historic Places to ensure their future protection.
Forest planning efforts also recognized these unique structures, and the 1990 the Forest Plan established direction to maintain and preserve them. The 1964 Wilderness Act states that any structure can only be allowed to the extent that is the minimum necessary for the administration of the wilderness. However, the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act also seeks to:
“ … promote, perpetuate, and preserve the wilderness character of the lands, protect watersheds and wildlife habitat, preserve scenic and historic resources, and promote scientific research, primitive recreation, solitude, physical and mental challenge and inspiration for the benefit of all the American people to a greater extent than is possible in the absence of wilderness designation.”
In this spirit of preserving historic structures, since 1984 the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has engaged in cooperative efforts to maintain its wilderness lookouts: Winchester Mountain, Park Butte, Three Fingers, Miners Ridge, Evergreen Mountain, Granite Mountain and Green Mountain. While each lookout has required considerable work to repair windows, roofs and foundations, the Green Mountain Lookout was in the most dire condition. The Forest Service began to rehabilitate the lookout in 1998 to rehabilitate the lookout. The project received wide public support, Washington State historic preservation concurrence, and grant funding. Work began in 1999.
The first repair effort in 2000 failed due to inadequate design for snow loading. At risk of losing the structure, the lookout had to be disassembled and removed from the mountaintop. Each piece was numbered and then removed by helicopter for repairs in Darrington, Wash., so the pieces could be returned and re-assembled to re-create the previous lookout atop Green Mountain.
In 2003 and 2006, major winter storms washed out roads and creek crossings, making access to the trailhead a 12-mile hiking venture on undriveable roads. Access finally improved enough that the lookout foundation could be repaired in 2009. The lookout pieces were then flown back by helicopter and re-assembled on the mountaintop. Today, some interior finishing work and other details remain to complete the lookout rehabilitation.