Three Fingers Mountain
Three Fingers Mountain is a very prominent mountain noticeable from the north Puget Sound Region. An old lookout on the highest point draws in the extra crowds. The catch for hikers is the trail that comes up short of the summit. You have to do some scrambling and snow climbing. It is not difficult stuff, maybe just bring someone along who can watch over you. The summit rocks have been made easy with a series of ladders, just hold tight as you go, there is exposure.
Distance: 8 miles (from Tupso Pass Trailhead)
Summit Elevation: 6,870 feet
Elevation Gain: 4,000+ feet
Access: Decent Gravel Road
Drive the Mountain Loop Highway 6.5 miles east of Granite Falls to milepost 7 at the top of the hill and turn left (north) on Forest Service Road No. 41. Three roads leave the highway at this point but two are private. FS41 is the east most of the three. At the junction where the pavement ends, keep left. Along the way you'll pass several obvious side roads. Turn right onto FS4160. The trailhead signed Goat Flats is about 17.5 miles from the Mountain Loop Highway. Contact the Verlot Ranger Station for road conditions as this road is susceptible to closures.
Start out on a gradual but root covered wet trail for 2.5 miles to Saddle Lake. Continue beyond there for 2.5 miles to Goat Flats. There are nice camps here in the wide open meadows with views out to Puget Sound. Continue on the trail 2 miles to Tin Can Gap. This is where many people stop. From here, depending on the month and snowpack, the traverse is on climbers trails, through moats or even on the glacier. Your best bet for the easiest conditions will be September and October. As your near the top the climbing is on heather and scree slopes, with one permanent snowfield as well. Finally, the ladders take you up the otherwise class 5 rock. A final rope to hold is in place for the last few feet.
Tin Pan Gap
Arriving to Goat Flats and ridge to lookout
Looking down at Tin Pan Gap
The moat beyond Tin Pan Gap
The Three Fingers
Waiting for slow climbers....while looking like tourists
In route to the gap
The rope just below the summit
East to Glacier Peak and Sloan Peak
On the final snowfield below the summit
Access from the Mountain Loop Highway
The Three Fingers lookout was manned for just eight summers from 1935 to 1942. In 1927 Harold Engles moved to Darrington to assume the post of district ranger. He wanted to build a lookout on top of the south summit of Three Fingers. Approval had been given by 1930 and the trail work to the summit began, with trail foreman Harry Bedel. This included dynamite in several areas. The summit was nearly leveled with one blast although there were many irregular, jagged spots left to trim. In 1931, from the final camp below the summit, materials for the cab were winched to the top the last 1,000 feet via a windlass made from telephone wire.. The next summer in 1932, Frank Benesch, who built many lookout cabins in the Snoqualmie National Forest began building the lookout. The cab barely fit, and the shutters on two sides were difficult to open from the outside since they were above cliffs. The L-4 cab was restored in the 1980's, leading that project was the daughter of the last observer. Efforts to keep the building were encouraged by retired Ranger Engles who lived to see the project completed before his passing in August, 1993. The structure is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. The roof was replaced in 2015. The Everett branch of the Mountaineers has adopted the lookout since the mid-1980s.
Harold Weiss (1935)
Harland and Catherine Eastwood (1936) 14 visitors that year. On Honeymoon.
Robert Craig (1937-40)
Harry Tucker (1941-42) Last lookout and in fall of 1942 was last official use.
Harry Tucker's mother and brothers spent the summer of 1943 at Goat Flats watching for Japanese planes. After 1943, the Three Fingers lookout was fully abandoned.
October 1931: "Harold Holmes working on the Three Fingers Lookout trail on top of the world made a misstep while working on the edge of the Glacier and went rolling down over the bare blue ice for about 500 feet, landing in a little lake among the jagged rocks. And it was lucky that he struck the island of rocks as a few feet either way and he would be going yet. He was badly shaken up but a few days in the hospital fixed him up all right again. W.G. Weigle" (Six Twenty-Six)
1932 finished lookout
Materials via tramway to summit
Views from Lookout on August 19, 1935
Picture of the tram during construction
Mountaineers Annual 1940 - Three Fingers controversy
Dynamited summit before structure. Curley Peterson on left, unidentified, Gerald Ashe is on right.
Three Fingers Builders - Harry Bedal on left