A vast view of local landscape: Red Top Hill


Red Top Hill hike offers views of the mountains without having to put in too much effort. A large portion of the adventure is the drive to the top.

Hanson Lee, Sports Editor

Ellensburg’s elongated winter frenzy may have you missing the area’s hot summer days. If that’s the case, then Red Top Hill’s summer hiking experience is an adventure to look forward to in the coming months.

The Red Top Hill hike has two distinct attractions for visitors looking to take in the full hiking experience. The first attraction is Red Top Hill’s fire lookout and the second attraction is the agate beds.

Information Assistant for the U.S. Forest Service, Cle Elum Ranger District, Nancy Jones expressed that both the fire lookout and agate beds are good beginner hikes.

According to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Service, the Red Top trailhead begins on Forest Road 9702 from the parking area. From there, visitors can follow an old road leading to where the trail initially forks into two pathways, one leading left and another leading right.

The left pathway will lead you on a steep ascent towards the peak of Red Top Hill where you’ll find an old fire lookout. The right pathway isn’t as steep and will have you navigating around cliffs at a lower elevation, eventually leading you near a junction with what is known as Blue Creek Trail. At this point, you will take the junction to its exit. After departing the junction with Blue Creek Trail, you’ll be back on the Red Top Hill trail, at which point you will head north, reaching the agate beds located on the ridge.

A peak into the distance

According to the Washington Trails Association, the Red Top Hill fire lookout, built in 1952, hasn’t been restored since 1997, but continues to work as an operational viewpoint for those looking to take in the scenic landscape and mountain ranges of the evergreen state.

The lookout exposes visitors to 360 degree views of Mount Rainier, the Stuart Range, the Chelan and Entiat Mountains, Teanaway Ridge and if visibility allows it, even Mount Adams at a peak point elevation of 5360 feet. With 1.5 miles of required trekking round-trip and 350 feet of elevation gain, this adventure is short, steep and breathtaking.

Jones said that during the summer months, the lookout is staffed by volunteers and during most business hours, is open for visitors.

Beds of discovery

The other attraction featured on the Red Top Hill hike is what’s known as the agate beds. According to the Washington Trails Association, there is a displayed guide set up near the agate beds with information and details on the rock beds. Jones said that these rock beds are typically navigated by hikers in search of Ellensburg Blue Agate and Geodes.

“That’s the big draw up there for a lot of people…To go up and dig for rocks,” Jones said.

Whichever attraction you choose to pursue, Jones stressed that it’s important for all visitors to take on basic safety precautions by bringing food, water, warm protective clothing, sturdy walking shoes or boots, a flashlight, bug spray and anything else necessary before venturing out. Jones stressed that even on the warmest days at ground level during the summer, it can become cold and windy when hiking up to your destination, so it’s important to pack warm clothing just in case.

“Everybody wants to carry the 10 essentials,” Jones said. “That’s basically survival gear.”

For the steep climb up to the fire lookout, Jones specifically recommends bringing a walking stick if you’re not steady with your footing. If you’re taking the more level trail to venture out into the agate beds, Jones said that a lot of people usually bring a shovel and/or a rock hammer, but warns not to dig around the roots of trees and to refill any holes created on the trail so that the area can be preserved.

Whether you’re looking to expedite for geological artifacts or just in the mood for a scenic view, Red Top Hill is an opportunity for all ages to soak in the culture of the pacific northwest.