Thorp Mountain–Crown jewel of Kachess Ridge

White Pass-Red Pass 111

The 1930-built fire lookout was recently refurbished.

Location: Cle Elum River Valley near Salmon La Sac

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 5.0 miles

High Point: 5,854 feet

Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Green Trails Map: Kachess Lake – No. 208

Contact: Cle Elum Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (509) 852-1100

Note: FR 4308-120 is rough and brushy in spots

Access: From Cle Elum follow SR 903 (which becomes the Salmon La Sac Road) north for 15.5 miles turning left onto FR 4308 (just past the Cle Elum River Campground).  Follow FR 4308 for 4.8 miles turning right onto FR 4308-120. Follow this rough road for 2.0 miles to the Knox Creek Trailhead.

Good to know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, huckleberries, fire lookout


There are several ways to get to the still-in-use fire lookout perched on the top of 5,854-foot Thorp Mountain. The Knox Creek Trail is the shortest and like the other trails leading to Thorp, quite scenic. The trail starts high in an open bowl of ferns and flowers and provides viewing nearly nonstop. The way starts off gently with a few long switchbacks before heading more steeply to a small notch on Kachess Ridge. Here among stately hemlocks and abundant huckleberry bushes head right on the Kachess Ridge Trail, dropping about 100 feet before heading up again.

Traverse a high meadow providing excellent views of twinkling Kachess Lake below all the way out to glistening Mount Rainier on the southern horizon. Enjoy good views too west of Meadow Mountain and Mount Margaret. At about 2.0 miles reach a junction with a trail coming up from Thorp Lake—a most worthy side trip or future trip.

Turn left and climb steeply up open meadows and up and around small ledges reaching Thorp’s summit in due time. Check out the 1930-built fire lookout and share conversation with one of its friendly keeps, usually either John Morrow or Lori Gaioss. Take in the spectacular views north of Mount Daniel, the Three Queens, Lemah Mountain and ChikaminPeak. Scan Kachess Ridge and its radiating ridges and contemplate exploring the lesser known trails that grace this lovely corner of the Central Cascades. Don’t to forget to allow some time for huckleberry harvesting on the way back to your vehicle.

For other great hikes to fire lookouts, consult my Day Hiking North Cascades or Day Hiking Central Cascades books.

For information where to stay and play in the Cle Elum area consult Northwest TripFinder

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