Last weekend, I went on an overnight hike to Yellow Aster Butte, in the Mt. Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest.
Yellow Aster Butte wasn’t our first choice, but this trip worked out perfectly. We even got to experience some fresh snow for the first time this season!
The untouched, snow-covered trail made a chilly night more than worth it.
Here’s a quick trip report and some photos.
Yellow Aster Butte trip report
I met up with a friend, Kent. Our plan was to head up to Winchester Mountain for a short hike followed by a night in the lookout, where we’d have plenty of protection from any inclement weather.
But when we arrived at the Twin Lakes trailhead (the start of the Winchester Mountain trail), there were five or six cars already there. Besides that, it was pouring rain. It looked wet and miserable.
After talking with another hiker at the trailhead, we learned that there were already two groups in the lookout. There’d be no camping in a nice dry shelter tonight.
Despite the pouring rain, we decided to make our way back down the road to the Yellow Aster Butte. There were no cars there—anyone crazy enough to hike in the middle of a rainstorm wanted the prime shelter up at Winchester Mountain.
But as soon as we parked, the rain slowed to a sprinkle.
It got better and better from there.
We made it to our campsite about 45 minutes before sunset, pitched our tent, put on another layer, and did a bit of exploring around camp. Before long, we were both feeling pretty cold. It wasn’t raining, but there was a lot of moisture in the air and the wind had really picked up.
At this point, I was reminded once again how much I love hot hands. If you’re not carrying these, do yourself a favor and grab some to throw in your gloves.
Anyone who has been in those conditions knows it doesn’t take long for the tent to start looking pretty appealing. That’s why I’m not too ashamed to say that we were in the tent before 6:00. Once we’d settled into the tent, a bit of snow started falling—not much, just enough to pitter-patter softly as it landed on the tent. This lullaby had us to sleep by, like, 8:15.
I got a little chilly that night, but it wasn’t anything intolerable. My guess is that the temperature may have dropped to the upper 20s.
When we unzipped the tent the next morning, we were in the middle of a light snowstorm. Wind was whipping snowflakes around, and about a half-inch of snow had accumulated on the ground. Fueled by some hot coffee, we packed up the tent and headed back down the trail. We didn’t see another human until near the trailhead.
Untrustworthy weather had worked out perfectly, and the fresh snow made everything worth it.
Trail conditions (November ’16)
- Wet and muddy, especially in the first section leading to the Tomyhoi Lake cut-off.
- Light snow covering the trail after that. Bring microspikes (depending on snow conditions, snowshoes might also be needed).
- Conditions are changing rapidly. Before you go, get up-to-date information and make sure you’re prepared for snow and inclement weather.
Yellow Aster Butte winter photos
The new snow up at Yellow Aster Butte made for a gorgeous landscape. I took fewer photos than I wanted (my hands kept getting too numb to use the camera), but I thought the ones I did take captured the conditions well.
Parts of the trail were super windy, especially at higher elevations. Despite that, the falling snow was fantastic and the perfect introduction to this year’s winter adventures.
Hiking Yellow Aster Butte
Both Yellow Aster Butte and Winchester Mountain can be accessed from Twin Lakes road (FR 3065).
This road is easy to find–just look for the large WSDOT storage shed about 12 miles past Glacier. Twin Lakes road is immediately east of the storage shed.
Once you’re on Twin Lakes road, continue four or five miles to the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead. From here the road gets a bit rougher as it climbs higher before ending at the Twin Lakes trailhead.
In late autumn, conditions can change rapidly. Make sure you’re prepared for a variety of situations, and be safe. To get more information about current conditions, you can contact the Glacier Ranger Station.