It’s possible to reach the lookout on top of Thorp Mountain four different ways. But this route offers a nice detour to a little lake, where you can have a snack and size up your objective before continuing on your way.
Set off from the tiny trailhead, going around a gate and then down to a creek crossing just a few feet from the trailhead. Try to rock hop if you can here – it runs deep and salmon use the stream for habitat, no need to disturb them.
The roadbed continues on once you’re across Thorp Creek, leading you to a rather large junction, signed for Little Joe Lake to the right, and Thorp Creek to the left. Hang a left for Thorp Lake and the lookout.
Climb up a now very-rough-roadbed for less than a quarter-mile to where the roadbed is blocked by a large log. A trail takes off to your left. This intersection has sometimes been marked by a bandanna – most recently it was a faded red one. If its not there, you won't miss it; the trail is evident. Duck down the left-hand trail, which retains its character (for the moment at least) as a rolling trail through open forest. Lined with huckleberries, you may want to allot some extra time here if you visit in fall.
After about a mile and a half more of gentle rolling, the trail gets down to it. Begin climbing, sometimes straight up as you head towards Thorp Lake. Occasionally, the switchbacks are interspersed with longer traverses but on the whole, this part of the trail is a slog. Take your time. Along the way there are a few small trickles if you need to refill water or your four-legged hiking companion is thirsty, but bring a filter if you intend to drink this water.
2.4 miles from the trailhead, arrive at a junction. Straight on is a very gentle 0.2-mile descent to Thorp Lake through much of the same environs you’ve been in: pine trees dotted with aspens, huckleberries, and generally open forest. There are campsites at Thorp Lake, and you can see up to Thorp Mountain, though the lookout perched on top isn’t visible from the lake.
If you're summit-bound, head right. You can see the trail above you weaving through a meadow. The climb resumes its intensity, but after 0.4 miles you’ll reach a junction with the Kachess Ridge trail, where it flattens out for a bit. Pay attention here: this junction is easy to miss and if you don’t turn left onto the ridge trail, you’ll be hiking to a different trailhead entirely!
Another 0.4 miles past the junction for the Kachess Ridge trail you’ll arrive at another junction, this one where the Knox Creek trail comes in: hikers from every direction come together for the final push to the summit.
The lookout is only half a mile away at this point, but you might stop a few times to take in the scene. You can see Kachess Lake far below, glittering in the sunlight, and in the fall the contrast of greens and golds on the hillside is arresting. Finally, round a shoulder and the lookout comes into view. The structure is staffed intermittently during the summer, and shuttered for the rest of the season. But if it is closed and shuttered, no worries! You can still get a great view from the catwalk, which is open even if the house is closed: it elevates you just a few more feet off the ground so you can get the best view possible of the Teanaway region.
From the top, you'll enjoy views of Mount Daniel, Bear's Breast Mountain, and Mount Hinman, among others. Further east is craggy Mount Stuart, guarding the Enchantments. Mount Rainier may even be out on a clear day. The whole panorama is arresting, and worth a long lunch to take in.
WTA Pro Tip: If the summit is full of people enjoying the view, please be sure to allow everyone access to the catwalk – it’s a small space, and just a handful of folks can make it feel crowded. Take your photos and step off the catwalk to make room for other hikers.