Dow Mountain is a very prominent mountain (1,694 feet) between Hood Canal and Lake Cushman. Starting in the early 1940's, the summit had a lookout tower with some incredible views of everything from the nearby Olympics to Mount Rainier far across the south sound flatlands. These days, Dow Mountain is just a nice walk in the woods for a rainy day. The top is open but totally surrounded by trees. The mountain was named for John Dow, an engineer for the U.S. Forest Service, and homesteader on the mountain on Dow Creek until his death in 1910.
WillhiteWeb.com - Washington Hiking
Dow Mountain Summit & Lookout Site
Distance: 3 miles
Summit Elevation: 2,514 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
South Side Access:
Take Highway 101 north from Olympia to Hoodsport. Go left on the well signed Lake Cushman Road, Hwy. 119. At about 4 miles, on the right is the Lake Cushman Maintenance Office. Park Here. Walk or drive to the right on the Dow Mountain Road past a small community of homes. This quickly comes the gate. There is a bit of parking there as well, off to the right on Mount Jupiter Drive. Signs at the gate stress that driving the road beyond is for Lake Cushman Maintenance Company Members Only, and you will get locked inside. Nothing indicates you can't hike here.
There are at least three ways up to the summit. One on the north side, two on the south side. I recommend the south side, west road route. The map below shows two roads on the south side leading up to the summit. The west one is shorter, more scenic and trail like, and has the least amount of private property issues. The east road has many no trespassing signs with property being sold and homes being built. The north route is long in winter due to elk migration gate closures, but more easily accessible from May through September when gates are open.
Dow Mountain Road Route:
Walk the road for about one mile avoiding any side roads or driveways. At 1,500 feet is a major Y intersection, the 2000 road (should be signed) goes right and the 2500 road goes left. Both lead to the top but it is best to go left. Follow up a few switchbacks to where I put a triangle on the map. From this point, the road has been rarely used and becomes more like a hiking trail. The forest walk from this point all the way to the summit is nice. Some of this upper route is over State Lands.
The last section just before the summit
If you are here, you are at the gate
Lake Cushman Maintenance Company Members only gate
At the Y, road 2000 to the right, 2500 to the left
West road route
West road route
East road route
Standing on the summit
Location of Dow Mountain
Dow Mountain Lookout Site
Before 1942, Dow Mountain had a crow's nest. In 1942 the State built a 12 x 24 foot house with a second story on the western part of the building. Two years later in May of 1944 the structure was used as an Aircraft Warning Service Station (Charlie 3-3). No added improvements were needed to utilize it for an AWS. Use as a fire lookout continued after the war. In 1963 the Department of Natural Resources built a 40 foot timber tower with live-in cab next to the original building and tore down the original lookout building within a few years. By 1972 the second lookout was gone. USGS surveyors said the lookout house has been torn down and the top of the mountain levelled for use as a landing spot for helicopters. Even the benchmarks on the summit were destroyed.
Resupply of water
Looks like a garage in the far back as well. Marshall Vail & Harry Clark in picture. Photo by Stan Spiegle.