Five Mile Butte Fire Lookout Snowshoe

five mile butte lookout

The lookout was super cozy and we loved having a wood stove….

Activity: Snowshoe or cross country ski

Distance: 6 miles roundtrip

Time: couple of hours each way

Difficulty: moderate

Season: December to April (booking season is a little longer)

Dog Friendly: Yes, the fire lookout is exposed and the stairs are steep…Jedi cried the first couple of times going up and down the stairs…so we had to drag and/or carry him. Eventually he got it.

Pros: You’re out in the middle of nowhere, snowshoeing, sledding, wood stove, 1 bed + 1 cot, some utensils provided, firewood provided, easy to navigate to

Cons: No electricity, no running water, going out to the vault toilet when it’s below freezing, shorter season due to lower elevation

mountains peeking through the clouds

A couple mountains peaking through the clouds on the road up to Five Mile Butte fire lookout.

To get to the fire lookout it’s a 3 mile hike along a road that begins across from the Billy Bob Sno-Park. The lookout sits at 4,627 feet and when it’s not cloudy there are some great mountain and forest views along the way.

five mile butte break

Taking a break on the road up to the fire lookout.

As the hike is a solid three mile uphill trek we stopped for a couple of breaks along the way. In early December, when we went, there wasn’t a ton of snow, but it was definitely icy and we were happy we brought our Black Diamond Trekking Poles and MSR Snowshoes.

five mile butte access road

View of the access road from the lookout.

We made it!!! The lookout sits about 40 feet off the ground and has some pretty steep and narrow stairs. We were happy to have the wood stove because the temperature was dropping fast and we wanted to melt some snow to make warm drinks. My Sorel Pac Boots boots were super comfy and warm….no cold toes for me.

frozen tree at five mile butte lookout

Pretty frozen tree reminds me of the holidays

We spent most of the evening reading over the old guestbooks, chatting, and drinking spiked apple cider and hot cocoa. The lookout stayed toasty all night long and we all slept great.

five mile butte sledding

We found a beat up plastic sled in the wood shelter and took advantage of the icy conditions.

We found a sled in the wood shed and had to get a couple of good runs in before we headed out for the day. The dogs were a little freaked out by it…but we had a great time!!!

five mile butte sledding steve

Super slick sledding….thank goodness for the sports setting on my camera!!!


Jedi rocking his ice beard after our hike back down from the lookout.

Back at the Sno-Park we finished off the last of our hot chocolate…that was still piping hot after all of our sledding and the hike out. The dogs stayed toasty with their packs layered over their winter jackets and were rewarded for all of their hard work with some treats when we got back to the car.

June Lake Snowshoe


june lake

Partially frozen June Lake on the South side of Mount Saint Helens.

With hiking season coming to an end it’s time to dust off our MSR Snowshoes and hit some of our favorite snowshoeing spots. We found out about June Lake from a woman that was hosting a Washington Trails Association/Mount Saint Helens info session at REI and the trail doesn’t disappoint. If you register for a climbing permit at the Lone Fir Resort (in Cougar, WA) before heading up you can even summit Mt. St. Helens on the same trip…just make sure to get an early start. I’ll have to work on convincing Steve to summit Mt. St. Helens on our next trip to June Lake.

Quick Stats

Activity: Snowshoe

Distance: 5+ miles (so many trails to explore, we ended up doing about 7 with some off-trail exploration and the trails on the opposite side of the road)

Time: half-day

Difficulty: moderate

Season: Nov/Dec to Mar/Apr

Dog Friendly: That depends on your dog….are they used to the cold and snow? Jedi is our wussy dog and he did just fine till the end when he was tired. Sal, our young crazy one, had the time of his life. Our dogs wear jackets on snowshoe trips and we pack extra food for them because they work extra hard….postholing a ton.

Pros: views of Mt. St. Helens, pretty June Lake, mid-week solitude

Cons: I imagine it can get pretty crazy on the weekends….the parking lot is huge!!!

Permit: You need a Sno-park pass

june lake worm flows/swift ski trail

Steve and the pups ascending the Swift Ski trail, which is also the winter summit trail on Saint Helens.

The trail begins at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park in the Gifford Pinchot National Park on the south side of Mount Saint Helens. If you head up to Marble Mountain I would advise driving a 4-WD or packing chains….I have gotten stuck driving my little Toyota after an early November snow and I’ve also been up there later in the season and the road is perfectly plowed all the way to the park, so check the road conditions (and trail conditions too) before heading out.

When we headed out to the mountain it was following a period of steady snow, while the Swift Creek Trail (#244) showed signs of use, the Pika Trail was only partially marked.  So we blazed our own trail, utilizing our GPS of course, over to June Lake. A snow storm was moving in and turning the sky black, so we hoofed it over to the lake, but it began dumping before we made it.

june lake weather

The storm front moving in…good bye blue ski…hello gigantic snowflakes!!!

June Lake is a gorgeous little lake with a pretty waterfall pouring off the hillside into it. The June Lake Trail (216B) follows a pretty little creek until it reaches the road. We decided to explore the trails on the other side of the road for a bit, but were soon cold (and the pups were getting cold and tired too), so we ended up following the road back to the parking area. We could have taken the Pine Martin Trail (#245E) back to the parking area, but our pup, Jedi, was tired of postholing, so we opted for the road which was great: no postholing, pretty views….and surprisingly no snowmobiles.

june lake creek

The June Lake ski trail follows this pretty little creek down the hill.


june lake st. helens

Finally a break in the clouds allowed us a peek at Mt. St. Helens.

Planning Resources

SnoPark conditions for trip reports

For an in hand guide check out Snowshoe Routes Washington.

Marble Mountain SnoPark Map

Click on the image to go to the forest service map pdf