Night Sky Images at Winchester Lookout

The Winchester Mountain Fire Lookout is located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, along the Mount Baker Highway. This is one of the few remaining lookouts in Washington. Most of them were removed, but several are now maintained by local alpine clubs. The Mt Baker Club does a fantastic job of caring for and maintaining the Winchester lookout, you can donate to their efforts here.

During the summer the lookout is open to the public, you can day hike up and spend the day there, or if you’re inclined, you can spend the night. There are no reservations, its first come, you got it for the night. If you hike up and the lookout of already claimed for the night there is plenty of flat space nearby where you can pitch a tent.

I have hiked up and spent the night atop Winchester Mountain 5 times, three of those trips I slept in the lookout, and 2 times I camped in my tent. Basically, if you want to sleep in the lookout, go on the weekdays and go very early. And bring a tent or a bivvy sack just in case! Oh yes, and bring all your water, there is none there, nor along the hike.

The view from the lookout is unbelievable.

As you can imagine the night sky views are fantastic. To the south and east the darkness is almost complete. The western horizon is aglow in the direction of Vancouver to the north, Bellingham to the west and Skagit Valley south.

These 4 images were taken during the same evening. Check out the green aurora glow!

During the same night, a view of Mount Larrabee from Winchester.

Here is one more for good measure. Good luck and happy shooting! I may see yo there.

If you’re interested, Night Sky Photo Tours are available, you can find out more here. 

Winchester Mountain

I visited Winchester Mountain Lookout this last August, on the New Moon, hoping for some nice night sky images.

I was with two clients who had signed up for a Hike-In Night Sky Photo Tour.

We arrived early at the trail head so as to get to the Lookout early and so “reserve”it for the night.

The hike in is beautiful, less that 2 miles. We arrived and just lazed about until the sky got dark.

My first comp was this shot of the lookout with the Milky Way above…how awesome!

I got this image and mostly thought I was done, but figured, what the heck, I am out here anyway, might as well shoot some more. I went to the other side of the lookout to shoot, now facing north…and was shocked to see the green glow of the aurora borealis along the horizon!

I decided to do a time lapse image, I used a 20 minute exposure at 100 ISO and here is the result.

And here is one more shot, of Mount Larrabee.

An evening at Winchester Mountain Lookout

I made it up to the Winchester Mountain Lookout last week, I wanted to reconnoiter a bit for an upcoming Photo Tour that’s scheduled. When I arrived the lookout was already claimed by 2 people, and then 8 more recent high school grads showed up, so it was a busy night there for the sunset! I managed a few decent shots!

Sunrise from Winchester Mountain

Morning skies in the North Cascades

Morning skies in the North Cascades

This image is from Thursday morning Sept. 23, at about 5am. Taken atop Winchester Mountain, along the Mount Baker Highway in the North Cascades. That’s Venus, the bright light on the right.

Exposure: Canon 6D and Rokinon 14mm lens; f/2.8 at 30 seconds

The next Night Sky Photo Tour(s) are scheduled for October 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th. If you’d like to come along, here is the link!

Winchester Lookout

Twin Lakes Panorama

Twin Lakes Panorama

Last Saturday I made it up (finally!) to Twin Lakes and the Winchester Mountain Lookout.

Winchester Mountain Lookout

Winchester Mountain Lookout

Located on the north side of the Mount Baker Highway (Route 542) the trail is approached via the Twin Lakes Road. It’s 7 miles from the highway to the start of the trail, 4.5 miles are easy for any car, and the last 2.5 miles require a high clearance vehicle, its a bit rough!

Weekends in the late summer and early fall will find more than 200 cars and pickups parked along the road over the last 3 miles. There is a veritable network of trails originating along the Twin Lakes Road such as Yellow Aster Butte, Tomyhoi Peak, High Pass and more.

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes

If your vehicle can make it up to Twin Lakes there are camp sites along both lake shore, out houses and camp fire rings/grates. I saw quite a few parties there car camping with bikes for kids, small boats for fishing along with lawn chairs and coolers.

Here the road ends and the hiking begins. From the parking lot you are right in front of Winchester Mountain, and you can see way up above the flag flapping next to the lookout. Winchester Lookout Flag 3

The trail zigzags up the mountain side, 1,300 feet in about 2 miles to the summit. The lookout tower is open to the public, and you can spend the night there. If you get up there and its already taken there are plenty of spots close by to pitch tents.

The view from the top is choked with stark jagged peaks. Goat Mountain, Mount Larrabee, the Pleiades, Tomyhoi Peak crowd the horizon. Mt Shuksan and Mount Baker loom up about all other summits.

The crisp air is perfect for hiking up a steep slope and the fall colors create a luscious palette.

The Winchester Mountain Lookout was clean and spacious, sporting a table, chairs, bed and a wide selection of books.

Saturday was the new moon, and one of the reasons of our visit was to hope for clear skies at night to capture images of the Milky Way.

The low angle of the setting sun set the blue berry bushes on fire.

Carpet of Color at Winchester Mountain

Fall Colors from Winchester Mountain 2

Fall Colors from Winchester Mountain 3

Fall Colors from Winchester Mountain

Sunset from Winchester Mountain

Winchester Lookout Sunset

An hour after sunset the sky exploded with stars.

I opted to sleep out under them, with no tent.

The early morning found the mountain surrounded by clouds. Just as I arose the sun breached the canopy and the sun dance atop the summits across the valley commenced.

Starry Sky from Winchester Mountain

New Night Sky Images

Every month brings a New Moon and with it, an opportunity to get out for more Night Sky Imaging.

Northern Lights and Milky Way Over Mount Baker

Northern Lights and Milky Way Over Mount Baker

Here in Western Washington its not often that you see the confluence of both no moon AND no clouds, but this last weekend we were blessed with both.

Thursday night I met a friend and we hiked in the dark up to a local promontory known as Big Rock. I expected that there would be plenty of light pollution from the nearby towns, but I did not expect to see the green glow of the Aurora Borealis on the horizon!

Friday night I was teaching a field class on Night Sky Photography through the North Cascades Institute and took 14 students up to Artist Point, at the end of the Mount Baker Highway. There we photographed Mt Shuksan at Picture Lake and then drove up to the roads end to get images of Mount Baker and more shots of Shuksan. At a small tarn we posed for a group shot.



Mt Shuksan

Mt Shuksan

Night Sky Photo Students and Mount Shuksan

Night Sky Photo Students and Mount Shuksan

Mt Baker

Mt Baker



Saturday night I recruited two friends and we hiked up to the Winchester Mountain Lookout. It was my first time up there and I was ecstatic with the whole trip, the hike, the fall colors, the lookout and the stars were all unsurpassed!

All of these image are for sale, as digital downloads, Canvas Wraps and Fine Art Prints. Here is the link to the Gallery Store.





The next New Moon is October 12th. I am conducting Night Sky Photo Tours for Oct. 10th through Oct. 13th.

Here is the link to find out more and register!