Kelly Butte Trail (#1031) is a 3.5 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Lester, WA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from July until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
This trip is to an old U.S. Forest service lookout. The door is unlocked so you can go in and get out of the elements. Go in sign the book and pack out your trash so this lookout remains a place hikers will want to return to for years to come. The view from this lookout is a 360 degree view with Mt. Rainier being the highlight but on a good day you can see forever.
This was an awesome Trail, very steep.
Follow the directions on the WTA site, Google maps will send you the wrong way! Follow the trail along an old road until you come to an opening with Mount Rainier in your face and a small "trail" sign on the right. The incline becomes very steep at this point as you switchback up, all the while enjoying incredible views of Rainier and the surrounding peaks. Might be best to leave strong willed dogs (from experience), small children, or anyone afraid of heights at home. The steep section is mostly loose dirt and rocks, so take care especially on the way down. After the switchbacks, you will meander through brush and wild flowers. Keep following the narrow, often overgrown pathway until you come to a short, but steep area to the top of the ridge line and the fire lookout building will come into view.
I saw 2 people and their dogs at the lookout, but didn't pass anyone else the entire hike. The 360 views were amazing! My only complaint was being swarmed with massive flies at the top. I also saw 2 marmots along the way, who called back and forth to each other as my dog and I approached.
Overall, awesome, short hike with beautiful views!
Wildflowers were beautiful
Moderate elevation, short distance, wildflowers, 360° views at the top and just beautiful scenery going up made this hike a keeper. I'll use this hike when I'm short on time but still wanting a full featured hike.
Love it!! Not too hard, great for huckleberry picking later in the year. Great views from the lookout on top.
Nice hike. Easy enough to get to, ~15 miles of service road to drive on. Only one other group there when we got to trailhead, which is marked clearly. Follow directions precisely, as there are a few turns onto different FS roads you'll need to navigate. The hike up was easy enough, there is a scramble where the old trail is. We failed to see the new trail sign and made our way up the scramble, where an old rope has been tied to help you up. Then on the way down we saw the signs for the new trail with an nice path up, whoops! Anyways, steady hike up. Short and sweet but once you get to the top the views are great! Make sure to go on a clear day. The fire lookout has been newly renovated and there are some neat books inside to read up on the history of Rainier.etc. I would do this hike again on a clearer day, for sure. Even with minimal clouds, though, the panoramic views were well worth it.
07/20/2014 - Worst. Hike. Ever... But that's not the fault of the trail. The weather was so foggy that we could rarely see more than 50 yards ahead. There was absolutely no vista or point of reference getting to the trailhead and we took several wrong turns on very narrow forest roads trying to find it. Once there, we walked on a wide, dirt road for a bit until we found what we thought was the trail. It was so foggy that we actually missed the new trail and took the old one which leads to the very old rope that you need to pull yourself up the cliff. That rope will snap at one point. It won't be good. The climb wouldn't be too difficult (unless you have a large dog like we did), but locating the trail at the top was tricky. I had to climb up a nearby boulder before I could see the trail again. After a bit we ended up connecting to the new trail and made it to an amazing meadow full of tall flowers. I'll post photos. We walked through this meadow for what seemed like way too long and convinced ourselves we had to be in the wrong place. It turns out that we probably turned around just before the lookout. After returning and looking at the satellite map I see that the parking area used to be at the end of the road we walked on at the beginning. It has been moved back to the beginning of that road. This made it even more confusing to get my bearings. Anyway, we had a good time and saw some amazing flowers and rock formations. Unfortunately we missed out on the view completely. I'll be going back to find out what I missed.
07/29/14 - I just returned to the trail on a much different day. It's amazing how different things are on a clear day! This is really a special place and making it to the lookout felt so satisfying after last week. I met a very helpful volunteer staying at the lookout with her son for a couple of days. The views are spectacular. I wished I could have seen the sunset, but had to descend before dark.
09/12/14 - Returned for a night hike in hopes of seeing the northern lights. No luck there, but the sunset was spectacular. It was very windy and cold at the lookout, but fine at the lower elevations. Lots of campers there doing the same thing we were. We descended by headlamp at around 10pm and many were just starting to head up.
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Tuesday 7-8-2014: My wife and I hiked to Kelly Butte lookout near Mount Rainier. The trailhead is 14 miles from highway 410. The last 6 miles are somewhat confusing dirt roads. The weather was perfect. Wildflowers are blooming. The new trail (2007) is a vast improvement over the old trail that requires a rope. The trail is in good condition. The lookout cabin was unlocked and it was nice to have lunch while seeing Mount Rainier.
It's all about the view. This is a short hike with a 15 mile drive from the highway to a nicely redone fire lookout trailhead. The hike is only about a 900 foot evelation gain and most hikers had their dogs with them. The 360 degree view is spectacular with Mt. Rainier as the center piece. Please pack out your trash so others don't have to.