McMurray Lookout Site - Pilchuck Tree Farm
I have found very little about the lookout site called McMurray, at an elevation of 1,400 feet near Stanwood, relatively close to Interstate 5. The lookout is reported to have been built in 1930 as a live-in tower, but was gone by the 1950's. The location was shown on Metsker maps but wasn't on DNR records. (More history at page bottom) The location today makes for an interesting hike. It's located on the Pilchuck Tree Farm, which has numerous hiking, biking and horse trails. This particular section of the Pilchuck Tree Farm has the Pilchuck Glass School, which offers serious instruction at a nice facility in a natural setting. No entry is allowed but you can hike all around the complex. This loop trip circles around the school, in order to visit the elusive Pilchuck Monument. This memorial monument isn't exactly easy to find and many have missed its location. Bring a good map and do some research before coming. Entry into the Pilchuck Tree Farm also requires $2 per person and a signed entry waiver. Luckily, you can do all this at the trailhead. Also, your access is in thanks to the horse riding clubs so follow the signs at the trailhead that ask you to park on the shoulder of the road and not in the horse parking area.
Summit Elevation: 1,400 feet
Distance: 5 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Road Access: Paved with good gravel on 12th Ave.
Take 1-5 exit 215 and turn east on 300th Street NW. At almost one mile, turn left on English Grade Road. After 1.3 miles, turn right on 316th Street NE. Turn left again at 12th Ave S. The Tree Farm sometimes says open May 1 to Nov 1. but people are there in winter all the time.
There are two gates from the trailhead. Follow the one north, continuing on 12th Avenue. At the first split, turn right (left is to the school and no trespassing signs). Going right, skirt around another gate and cross an open area experimenting with bio-solds (or as I told my kids, fertilizer made from poop). Once past the open area, turn left paralleling the open area. When the road makes a sharp right, look for a trail continuing north. This is more interesting than walking the road. The tree farm has been planted in rows and its very interesting looking down the rows of trees. Signs indicate spacing, 12 x 12, 302 trees per acre, 10 x 10, 435 per acre, and so forth. The trail reaches a minor ridge, veers right, re-hits the road, follow road up until another trail on left, continue on trail to summit.
To get to the monument, drop off summit on a trail taking you north, switchbacking down to a road. Left or right, the road network can be followed to the monument (just follow map). We took lower route which dropped down to the school again, no trespass signs, but a trail on right skirted over to road that went back up to monument area. From the monument back to your car, the school blocks all quick access. For a loop, take the trail down on the north side of the monument. You'll hit an old road shortly, go right on the road (even further from your car), then a left on an even older road to a trail that drops down to a clear-cut. More road walking down, then up, then flat all the way back to the parking area. Good Luck!
Trail near McMurray site
West gate at trailhead
North gate at trailhead
Upper entrance to monument area
Trail over to monument
Waiting for clouds to push through
Horse tie-up area at monument
Trees in the Pilchuck Tree Farm
Former McMurray Lookout sit
Views from the monument
Skagit Delta from trail down below monument area
Road near the west end of the loop
Many, many more trails than what is shown here on the map
1930: "The English Lookout was built on land donated by the English Lumber Company. A mile and a half of road was built to connect with the county road, making the Lookout Tower accessible to the public. This was equipped with a Junior Osborne Fire Finder. It was visited by the public throughout the fire season, because of the magnificent panorama which opened from the tower. This is believed to have an excellent educational effect and was therefore encouraged. (23rd Annual Report of the Washington Forest Fire Association)
Possibly called ENGLISH LOOKOUT in 1930 after being built
The lookout was likely named after Edward English, a huge timber owner in the foothills of Skagit County and owner of the land donated. He died in 1930 the same year as the lookout construction. It was said "No man whose name was more associated with logs and logging than Edward English". He even donated all the land for Little Mountain Park, where another lookout was located right in Mt. Vernon. The McMurray Lookout is right off Interstate 5 and is probably why it was visited by the public so much and used as an educational tool.
No known lookout in the area has the name ENGLISH LOOKOUT