Sourdough Mountain is probably most often hiked by someone who really wants it! Tucked into the village of Diablo, itself tucked off of the North Cascades Highway, the trailhead commences behind a covered recreation building. The one hundred or so feet from the parking lot, across the road, over the lawn, and behind the rec center is the last level ground the hiker will encounter for 3000 feet.
The trail switchbacks steeply and relentlessly for those hard earned 3000 feet, and then rounds a ridge to traverse to Sourdough Camp, 4200 feet from the car and 1000 feet from the summit. The keen eyed hiker can spy the lookout from the traverse that reaches Sourdough camp. From Sourdough camp, the route traverses easterly across a very steep hill. More switchbacks, steeper than the aforementioned initial switchbacks, lead the by now weary hiker to the ridge crest. The trail traverses the ridge a half mile to the lookout building, unfortunately boarded up for us due to the late date.
The final ridge traverse is sublime, with views straight down to Diablo Lake and Ross Lake. Mountains abound in all directions, and starting from directly east and proceeding clockwise include: Jack, Crater, Ruby, Buckner, Snowfield, Pyramid, Davis,McMillan Spires, Luna, Hozomeen, Desolation, and on and on and on.....Ross Lake, complete with mite sized power boats from Canada, appears straight down off the east side of the summit ridge.
The edifice of Diablo dam and the gash of HWY 20 complete the scene. The glacially polished biotite gneiss adorning the summit ridge adds to the close view. However, the star of the day was the acres of fall colors, including reds, oranges, yellows, golds... And the blueberries.... acres of them. Several large piles of scat were evidence of bears' feasting on the lucious berries. We attained the 5.5 miles to the summit and 5200 feet of gain in 3 hours. A serious grunt, especially for those of us recently slowed by newfound parenthood.
As a storm was approaching from the west, the first major one of the fall, we lingered on top for only about an hour. I could have spent days rambling up there. Before the hike I questioned my hiking partner's mental capacity for doing this hike for the sixth time. Once I did the hike though, I can see why. It was nice for him also, as he had only done it earlier in the year, minus all the autumn colors. We only saw three people on the trail, one fellow from Australia who camped on the summit, and a young couple up for a day hike like us. Only the fit and strong need consider this one, 11 miles and that 5200 feet of gain. The quads hurt for days afterward!!!! Enjoy!
Note: This is backcountry wilderness travel. You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards and taking the necessary precautions.