I’ve been heading to hikes off of highway 2 East near Gold Bar for the past two weekends. It’s been a great place to explore, because there still isn’t snow blocking the trails or the roadways, and there are beautiful mountain vistas and waterfalls in abundance. When the forecast was partly cloudy for this past Saturday, I knew I wanted to plan for a hike with some high-up views to take advantage of the possibility of some clear skies. Heybrook Lookout seemed like a great fit: close to Seattle, 360 mountain views, and an easy 1 mile hike to the top.
The only issue was precisely how short it was for the drive. Even though it wasn’t too far, I still felt like I wanted to get more out of my drive than a 2-mile quick hike. In researching other hikes in the area, I settled on Barclay Lake Trail. The trail is about a quick drive from the Heybrook Lookout Trailhead, and it’s about 4 miles round trip. It seemed like a great hike to add on to the Heybrook trail. So, I set my alarm for a 6 am wake up on Saturday morning. We were out the door by 7:30 am off on our adventure!
Heybrook Lookout Trail Review
- Hiked: late November
- Distance from Seattle: 1 hr 15 min
- Accessibility: Easy, no dirt roads to traverse with the car.
- Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip
- Difficulty: 2/10
- Crowds: 8/10
- Trail views: 9/10
- Water features: 3/10
- Overall: 8/10
Other trail notes: We did not hike the actual trail, because I plugged in “Heybrook Lookout” to Google Maps and it took us not to the trailhead, but to what I think was the actual fire truck road used to get all the way to the lookout. Whatever it was, Google Maps sent us to a road that was closed. However, from that spot, Maps showed the lookout as only 1.9 miles away. So, we left the car on the dirt “lot” there and hoped it would work out, because we did not have cellphone service to investigate other possibilities.
Our “trail” was a dirt and gravel road, which was nice in the sense that it was very wide. The walk was through trees but many mountains were visible during the climb. We started out around 8:45 am and didn’t run into anyone else on the hike up, but did see a few groups on our way down–probably others who also let Google Maps lead them astray! Anyhow, we passed over a gorgeous little waterfall along the road, and still enjoyed the “trail” despite it not being the correct footpath.
When we got to the base of the lookout, we saw others coming up the actual trail. The lookout itself has amazing views on a clear day. It’s about 9 floors of stairs up to the top; for individuals afraid of heights, it might be a bit of a challenge. The staircases are fenced in, but the steps themselves are a bit open, so we chose to leave Gaby at the bottom of the stairway while we checked out the views.
After appreciating the mountains at the top of the lookout, we headed back down. Clouds rolled in around the lookout almost immediately after we got to the bottom–the weather changes so quickly in the mountains! We headed back to our car for hike number two.
Barclay Lake Trail Review
- Hiked: late November
- Distance from Seattle: 1 hr 20 min
- Accessibility: 4 miles on a rough, pot hole-filled road to get to the trailhead
- Length: 4.4 miles roundtrip
- Difficulty: 4/10
- Crowds: 3/10
- Trail views: 7/10
- Water features: 8/10
- Overall: 6/10
Other trail notes: Parking at the trailhead requires a Northwest Forest Pass. Even this late in the season, the parking area was full and cars were parked along the road for quite a distance. Bathrooms were closed for the season, and it looks like trash services, too, so please be sure to pack out any and all trash from your trip.
The drive from Heybrook to the Barclay Lake Trail is about 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast you’re able to take on the bumpy dirt road that ends at the trailhead. We arrived shortly before noon, and started the hike around 11:45 am. The trail is mainly through the forest on soft terrain (beware of mud) and it frequently has openings in the trees where you can see the mountains. It’s a gentle trail that has minimal elevation gain, so it’s knee-friendly!
One of the most interesting elements of this trail is that there are a lot of massive, gnarled tree trunks along the side of the trail. It seems as though the area might have been logged at some point, but there are many younger trees that have taken the place of the old. There’s also a stream/river that flows near the trail during the first half of the hike, which you cross over via a cool but slightly treacherous bridge as you near the lake.
Overall, the trail would be really an easy hike if it weren’t for several downed trees that block the path. One or two were easy to duck underneath, but the others required scrambling over the top. The trunks were definitely slippery. Plan to get a bit mucky while hiking this trail in the fall.
The lake itself was small, but pretty. The views were a bit obscured on the afternoon we hiked it, due to a combination of mist/fog and smoke from people who had started fires near the lakeside. I’ve never seen that on a trail before, and I’m not sure that it was allowed…
The last portion of the trail leading up to and around the lake had some snow, so we didn’t end up staying very long because we didn’t want Gaby to get uncomfortable in the cold. There were also a lot of people around the lake’s edge, which was another reason to head back out. We passed a surprising number of people going towards the lake as we were leaving, too.
We arrived back at the trailhead around 2:30 pm. All in all, a great, full fall day trip from Seattle! These two hikes ended up being a pretty solid combination for a nice workout. They were distinct from one another, too. Doing both hikes made the drive feel more worth it than had we driven simply for one or the other, and they were both very doable in a single day. We didn’t have to rush at any point, and if you take the correct trail to Heybrook Lookout, the hike time would be even shorter! Be sure to still get an early start to be able to enjoy the trails without needing to rush.