After work on the longest day of the year, we set out to Mt. Pilchuk to watch the sun sink behind the horizon.

I’ve only done it once, but Mt. Pilchuk is definitely one of my top hikes in Washington. Once we breached the tree line, every step and turn treated us to new and glorious views. The mountaintops were still sporting snowy caps and the light turned the landscape into a living Maxfield Parrish painting.


Hiking on a Tuesday meant that the trail was quieter than it probably is on the weekends, but we certainly weren’t alone. After the relatively short but steep 2.7 mile ascent, we reached the infamous lookout. There were a handful of other sunset hunters eating dinner and sharing the views in the hut.

Taking in the sunset

There’s something about hiking that brings people together. Everyone was chatting, pointing out the best angles for photographs and generally appreciating nature. As the sun went down, the San Juan Islands, the Sound, the clouds and mountains around us were painted the most vibrant red.

View from the lookout

But the biggest treat was yet to come. As the sunset was fading, the full moon rose over the Cascades in the east, bathing the snowy mountains in its soft light and bringing excited whoops from those who watched its trajectory into the sky.

Magical Moon

Several people were going to stay overnight and sleep huddled together like sardines in the lookout. If you’re interested camping up there, I’d recommend going during the week. I’m sure it’s full to bursting on the weekends.

We were not spending our night on the mountain, so we started the trek back to the trailhead. It got dark as we descended and our headlamps guided us home. There were a few rocky and snowy patches that were tricky with our limited vision. The hike in total took about five hours, including viewing the spectacle of the sunset and the moonrise.

I’d highly recommend this hike, and will definitely be doing it again.