Red Mountain Trail #651

The Red Mountain Trail is listed as "Most Difficult" yet it is only 1 mile long with an elevation gain of 700 feet, this can be confusing.  The destination for Red Mountain Trail #651 is the old site of the 
Red Mountain Fire Lookout built in 1936 and ending at the rock outcropping.  To get to the old lookout site you start off from the North Fork Sauk Trail #649, hiking a short distance you will come to junction and sign for Red Mountain to the left.

Hiking up the trail, photo by Nels Rasmussen

The trail winds up the slope with a couple of long switchbacks through old growth forest giants.  When hiking keep an eye out for the flat overlook to your right, this is the site of the Red Mountain Fire Lookout looking out over the beautiful glaciers of Pride Basin.  

                                                                                     Looking over Pride Basin, photo Martha Rasmussen

When coming to an old Lookout site you wonder, why build a lookout at the location?  It was only at an elevation of 2,800 feet and didn't have a tower raising it up.

Looking southwest at Sloan Peak from the site, photo by Martha Rasmussen

It is quite a panoramic view, both looking up at the Mountains and below at Pride Basin with peeks of the North Fork Sauk River.

                                                    Looking over Pride Basin, photo by Martha Rasmussen 

Once standing at this spot it is easy to see why a lookout stood here for 31 years safeguarding the forest having a view of many miles.  The trail continues for a short distance beyond the lookout site and ends at a large rock outcropping.  If you continue on this trail, it quickly becomes clear why this trail is rated "most difficult".  It continues over the rock outcropping where there is a narrow ledge with treacherous foot holds.

Looking at Mt. Pugh in the distance, photo by Martha Rasmussen 

Once beyond this point, the trail goes back into the forest and climbs at about a 45 degree angle without switchbacks and quickly the trails is only marked by survey tape on the occasional tree.  After hiking for about 2 more miles you reach the first ridge and will be looking up towards the next SE ridge.  A vista will not open up of the surrounding mountains until you hike another 2 miles climbing steeper and reach 4.0 acre Ruby Lake at the basin of Red Mountain.  Beyond the lake is the climber's route for Red Mountain.  This trail is for the experienced hiker, keep in mind it is just as difficult descending as ascending, so give yourself a lot of time, consider spending the night.  The elevation gain to Ruby Lake, once going past the rock outcropping, is 5,000 feet in 4 miles.  

Looking out from the trail 2 miles beyond the rock outcropping,
photo by Nels Rasmussen

To get to Red Mountain trailhead from the Darrington Ranger Station,drive the Mountain Loop Highway approximately 17.0 miles to the Sloan Creek Road #49 and turn left. Follow the road for 6.6 miles to the North Fork Sauk Trail #649. The Red Mountain Trail begins 100 yards in from trailhead, on the left.