On the Road: Little Mountain Park in Mt. Vernon

little mountain park mt vernon

 

Type

Viewpoint

Location

Mt. Vernon

Special Features

Two view platforms
Picnic area
Hiking and mountain biking trails

Entrance

West side of Little Mountain Road

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Preview

Little Mountain Park is a forested hill with an elevation of 934 feet located southeast of downtown Mt. Vernon. The 522 acre park contains 10 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, but for those of us who can’t or don’t want to hike to the top there is a 1.5 mile paved road that allows vehicles to drive up.

The road is quite narrow and winding in places so you need to drive with caution and keep an eye out for pedestrians. RVs larger than a camper van should not use the road as they would be too wide to pass oncoming traffic and taking a trailer up, even a tiny one, would be a bad idea.

The hiking trails can be accessed at two places at the foot of the hill and at various points along the park road. There are very few official places for hikers to park at the main entrance gate, but a lot of vehicles were parked on the verge of the road. About a quarter of a mile past (south) of the main park entrance is the east trailhead with space for about 15 cars. For those who enjoy short and easy nature walks, there is a quarter-mile long interpretive loop trail at this parking lot.

The first (north) viewpoint is located on the right hand side of the road just before you get to the parking lot on top of the hill. A short path leads from the road to a long and narrow platform that hangs out over the hillside. If no clouds are interfering you get a nice view of Mt. Baker from here.

There is no place to park right at the path. If you want to enjoy that view platform you have to walk down from the parking lot. It’s not a long distance to walk but those with serious mobility issues may not be able to handle the substantial slope of the hill. I didn’t see any benches near the viewpoint.

I don’t have any photos of that view because my fear of heights would have prevented me from going out on the platform so it didn’t seem worth it for me to walk down there. I do include a couple of (bad) pics below of the path from the road to the platform that I took from my car when leaving.

The second viewpoint is at the top of the hill. This view is to the west.

The parking lot has two sections, with the first section having spaces right in front of the viewpoint area. Handicap spaces are located at the end of the first parking section just before the road curves back around to the lower parking section.

The top view area has picnic tables, a view platform, two benches, and a bathroom. (I think it’s a pit toilet, but I didn’t go over to investigate.)

Two picnic tables are on a lawn right in front of parking and it’s a level walk to reach them. Another picnic table is in the shady area in between the two parking sections, and a fourth is located up on the little knoll near the view platform.

The view platform is on top of a small rise. There are two ways to reach it. A short paved path switchbacks up from the picnic lawn. This is slightly shorter and steeper. Another paved path is located at the far end of the first parking section next to the handicap spaces. This path isn’t quite as steep.

Those with serious mobility issues may not be able to go up to the view platform, but the distance is quite short so most people should find it doable.

The bathroom and two benches are located at the top on the south side of the view platform. Unfortunately, the view from the benches isn’t that great because a chain link fence lines the edge of the hill here and you have to look through it while sitting.

The view at the top of Little Mountain has the potential to be spectacular. However, trees have grown up that obstruct the view. Rather than enjoying a sweeping panorama you get a series of views between gaps in the tree tops. I’m normally not one to encourage cutting trees, but in this case it’s a true shame it hasn’t been done because a fantastic view has been reduced to a pretty good view. The view is better if you have binoculars to pick out details in the valley below.

The view from the platform is better than from down by the picnic tables, but many trees are still in the way.

It’s very unfortunate that the park road doesn’t open until 10 am. I don’t know the reason for such a late opening time, but it also contributes to the view being less than it could be. The view at the top, especially for photography, would be best earlier in the morning so the sun is lower at your back. As it is, by 10 the sun is already fairly high in the sky and partly washes out the view, especially if it’s also hazy which is common for the area.

If possible, go as soon as the park road gate opens. I was a bit lazy and didn’t get up there until a few minutes before 11 am so the view wasn’t at its best. I’d imagine some pretty spectacular sunsets can be seen from here, so very late in the day is another option.

Despite what I said about the view not living up to its full potential, I definitely thought it was worth my time to drive up. Little Mountain Park is within a reasonable distance from several nearby towns, so if you find yourself in the area and have some time to kill or are in the mood for a scenic picnic or some hiking, Little Mountain is a good place to go.

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Things to Know

Hours

10 am to dusk

Seating

Four picnic tables and two benches.

Bathroom

Small blue building up the path and to the south of the view platform. (Probably a pit toilet but I didn’t verify.)

There are other rustic toilets located near trails.

Parking

Very limited parking for hikers at the base of the park road at the main entrance.

Small parking lot for approx. 15 cars at the east trailhead a short distance south of the main park entrance.

A few pullouts along the park road for hikers.

Parking lot at the top of the park road next to the main viewpoint.

I arrived at the top at about 11 am on a weekday and there was plenty of parking available. I was there for about 45 minutes and by the time I left there were quite a few more cars in the lot. Based on that, I’m guessing that on nice warm weather weekends the lot does sometimes fill up.

Only three cars were parked down near the park road entrance gate when I started up, but when I left the park lots of cars were squeezed in anywhere there was even a little bit of space along the road. So if you want to park there to hike a trail get there early.

Usage

I was surprised by the amount of activity in the park on a weekday. Though the number of people there may have had something to do with it being a beautiful day when it had been snowing just a few days prior and people were anxious to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine

When I arrived at the top viewpoint a few minutes before 11 am there were about four other cars in the lot and approximately six people scattered around the area. By the time I left about about 45 minutes later there were several cars in the lot and quite a few people enjoying the viewpoint, including a couple of larger family groups.

Based on my single visit, it appears that Little Mountain Park is very popular, both with locals and tourists, especially on a sunny day. If the view isn’t great due to poor weather you might have the place to yourself, but otherwise expect to have company. If you want to avoid people as much as possible plan to get there early.

Photo Ops

Mt. Baker and Skagit Valley from first view platform. Skagit Valley farmland, Olympic Mountains, and islands from top viewpoint.

Web Resources

Map location

City of Mt. Vernon park info page

Little Mountain Park dedicated website (includes driving directions, hiking trails map, and other park details)

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