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South Point Lookout

South Cascades


South Cascades -- White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley
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7.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 2900 ft.
Highest Point: 5980 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee


Like most lookouts, South Point offers excellent views at a price. A trail that sees little maintenance on a remote ranger district, you'll expend a little sweat getting to this gorgeous vista.

Beginning on an old logging road, the trail winds through forest so old that you're under a dense canopy and the forest floor is littered with downed trees, branches and understory. Flora abound here, including avalanche lilies.

The tread is passable, though this trail hasn't seen maintenance in a while. While some of the drainages have been cleared, as of summer 2016 there were 18 trees down across the trail. A spring awaits hikers at about 4,600 feet of elevation, but it is an unreliable source of water, so be sure to carry all you need.

The logging road turns into a trail after a couple of miles, and enters a meadow. It then enters a forest of moss-draped silver fir, the forest floor is smooth and clean; covered in green leafy understory.

At the spring look for a nine-foot wide Douglas-fir. It survived a fire that burned through though here early in the 20th century. As you take it in, think about how many of the pines below exist thanks to the cones and seeds from this one giant.

Past the spring, arrive at a small rock garden then a few meadows at 4,800 feet of elevation before going back into high elevation forest. Soon you pop out to a saddle, a good place to rest or stop your hike if you don't wish to huff up the remaining 300 feet to the hot summit. There are nice views here of the surrounding peaks, without having to head to the tip-top.Climb up to the ridge, and then the point, where the lookout once sat.

If you do choose to continue to the top, it's possible to see volcanoes galore -- Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens to the south, Mount Rainier close to the north, and to the east, Goat Rocks right in your face. Glacier Lake is seen far, far below your feet. The Tatoosh look small, maybe because Rainier looks so big.

Lower in elevation, but no less stunning, look for Whalehead and Purcell Peaks to the northwest, and take in the pastoral views of the Big Bottom of the Cowlitz. Like most lookouts, the climb is trying, but the views are rewarding. Be sure it's clear the first time you visit South Point Lookout.

Note: Some old hiking guidebooks mention a trail heading south from the lookout point. It intersects where the main trail almost touches the ridge, on your left, several hundred feet below the top. It is recommended only recommended for those with cross country and navigational experience.


South Point Lookout

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.5254, -121.6674 Open map in new window


South Cascades -- White Pass/Cowlitz River Valley

South Point Lookout (#123)

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: South Cascades (Nelson - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails No. 302 Packwood

Getting There

Driving west on Highway 12, go 3.5 miles past Packwood, then make a left onto Forest Road 20, and proceed about 5 miles, crossing a one-lane bridge. Just beyond the bridge is the trailhead on the left, now unsigned. The parking lot is a pullout enough for 2 or 3 vehicles.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


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South Point Lookout

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