RT Distance: 8 miles
High Point: 1760 feet
Elevation Gain: 1450 feet
Season: All Year
Discover Pass is required.
In 1948 the Washington State Division of Forestry raised a 75-foot Navy surplus steel tower with a small observation cabin on the high point of the long Gold Mountain ridge, the highest peak in Kitsap County. That cabin was too small for staff lodging, so a 14×18-foot ground house was provided on a shoulder of the ridge, about 50 feet downhill.  Sometime in 1965, the then Department of Natural Resources replaced the tall metal tower with a 50-foot wooden tower with a live-in cabin on top on the next hill to the southwest, less than 0.1 mile away.
Gloria and Dick Tyler were the staff on the Gold Mountain Lookout towers in 1965 and 1966. Gloria wrote about their experiences there for the Department’s lookout staff newsletter, Ten˗Eight. She reported they were stranded in the tall old tower when a 70 mile an hour wind came through, June 17, 1965. They stayed overnight in the tower, because Gloria was afraid to go down the ladder in the wind. “It was still blowing in the morning but by then I was so cold and stiff I thought I might as well go dramatically,” she reported.  In the July 1966 issue, she reported they were enjoying the new lookout tower, and not needing to climb the old 85 foot ladder several times a day. Historical lookout inventories report the second Gold Mountain Lookout as “destroyed 1971.”
A half dozen television stations, communication companies, and government agencies have erected their relay towers along the two-mile ridge since that time. Trees have grown tall on the summit, concealing the route foresters took to the first lookout tower. A timber harvest authorized in 2023 may restore some of the panoramic views the historical fire lookouts enjoyed, sometime in the next few years. A cultural resources review of the area, which is required as part of the timber harvest planning process, should result in a “Save Trees Area” that leaves the artifacts of the 1948 fire lookout tower and ground house undisturbed.
This hike visits both Gold Mountain Lookout sites. It begins at the Tin Mine trailhead in the Green Mountain State Forest and shares a narrow trail with mountain bikes for a short part of its ascent. Bikers appear mostly on weekends and are generally courteous. The trail connects with an old forest road crossing the Gold Mountain ridge on a route that primarily serves the modern communication towers standing tall above. The 1965 lookout site is easily reached by road. Access to the 1948 ground house and tower sites requires a short cross-country hill climb.
Getting There from Bremerton (coming from the east or north):
- From Bremerton, take the Kitsap Way exit from State Route 3.
- Drive 1.4 miles and take a slight left on Northlake Way NW.
- At 2.5 miles, angle left on the Seabeck Highway NW.
- At 5.5 miles, take the second exit at a traffic circle, to NW Holly Road.
- At 9.7 miles, turn left on Lake Tahuya Road NW.
- At 10.9 miles, turn left on to Gold Creek Road NW.
- At 12.4 miles, turn left into the Gold Creek Trailhead parking lot of the Green Mountain State Forest. There are no signs announcing the approach to the parking lot, which is concealed behind foliage. Park between the outhouse and the picnic tables.
Getting there from Belfair (coming from the south):
- Follow signs toward Belfair State Park from the traffic light on State Route 3, in the center of Belfair.
- In two blocks, turn right at the stop sign, onto the Old Belfair Highway.
- At 3.5 miles from State Route 3 (just past MP 3), turn left on Bear Creek/DeWatto Road.
- At 6.6 miles from State Route 3 (just past MP 3), turn right on NE Gold Creek Road.
- At 9.0 miles, turn right into the parking lot. Small signs just before the entrance announce the approach to the Gold Creek Trailhead. Park between the outhouse and the picnic tables.
THE HIKING ROUTE:
Follow the Tin Mine Trail signed for non-motorized use that starts to the right of the outhouse. In 2023 this trail name appears on signs throughout the southern part of this state forest, but not on the Department of Natural Resources’ website. The map there is dated 2009.
Hike 0.25 mile on a narrow trail through a young forest to a junction marked with a metal diamond ◊ trail sign on a tree trunk on the left side of the main trail. Turn right before getting to the diamond marker, onto a trail which has been designed primarily as a challenge for mountain bikes. The track remains in the trees for little more than 100 feet, then emerges to climb a hillside that was closely shorn in 2019. A lot of logging debris was left in place, but small shrubs—notably sword ferns, Oregon grape, salal, and lupine—have started doing their best to restore the landscape. Clear views of the Olympic Mountains, Hood Canal and Lake Tahuya are revealed as you ascend the hill.
The trail winds steeply up the slope, gaining about 500 feet in 0.55 mile. Signs at the ridgetop indicate the Tin Mine Trail continues, traversing to the east from its junction with a one lane forest road.
Turn right on the road to continue toward Gold Mountain ridge. The road quickly turns south. On its left side is an abandoned gravel pit. The trees in this area were harvested early in this century, and their replacements are growing quickly. Continue on this track for 0.7 mile. In spring watch for purple lupine and the bright pink blossoms of native rhododendrons beside the road.
At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the track meets the main gravel road on the Gold Mountain ridge. This is Minard Road, a name that appears on historical maps of the route to the Gold Mountain fire lookout. Continue traversing the ridge toward the northeast. Trees on the downhill side of the road were harvested between 2010 and 2015. Their replacements have grown slowly on the sunny slope, allowing a broad panoramic view from the Olympics to Mount Rainier. Mission, Tiger and Panther Lakes are visible to the southwest, near the foot of Gold Mountain. A snippet of Hood Canal can be seen far south of the lakes while large segments of Puget Sound’s waters appear to the southeast, with Mount Rainier floating above them on clear days.
The ridgetop is reached in about 0.25 mile as you pass a gate identifying the large installation down its spur road as belonging to KCPQ, Channel 13. The development includes a tower tall enough to disappear in passing clouds. Something in the complex hums insistently as hikers pass its northern boundary, distracting briefly from forest views and bird songs.
Turn east and continue on the ridge. Rhododendrons thrive on the shadier north side of the ridgeline. Pass a gated road on the right that leads to a tower belonging to KTBW-TV, Tacoma. Views of a comparable tower on Green Mountain, about a mile to the north, emerge on the left as well.
The road continues eastward. At 2.5 miles keep right at a Y junction. The ridge road reenters the forest where openings allow broad views east and north. After trending downhill, the route circles the eastern end of the ridge. As the gravel track turns west to complete the curve, it climbs steeply. At 3.5 miles the main road widens and an unsigned spur leads south toward a metal tower visible over the trees. This site was identified in Harvey Manning’s 1979 Footloose 4: Walks and Hikes around Puget Sound, as the site of the 1965 Gold Mountain fire lookout tower.  Research by Eric Willhite and Alan Mainwaring in February 2023 found the correct historical location a short distance west of the 1948 fire lookout site.
Continue west another quarter mile, passing a junction with an ungated road on the right that leads to two communication towers. Pass a hillock on your right and follow the road downhill and up around a curve to its end on another hillock. At the right side of the road end are several small buildings and a tall communications tower inside a chain link fence. This is a Washington State Patrol communications station. On the left side of the clearing is an L shaped one story building, marked with a Washington Department of Natural Resources facilities inventory number on its east side. The structure’s current use is not known, but several artifacts of the 1965 fire lookout tower remain close to this building. Three square concrete footing blocks, each with a pair of short galvanized rods protruding, stand close to the foundation of the building which replaced their tower. The footing blocks are located so close to the newer building, it is unlikely they are in their original positions. Additional research will be needed to learn more detailed information about the location of the 1965 tower, and about the building which replaced it.
To visit the well-defined site of the 1948 fire lookout tower, retrace your steps to the low point on the road between the two hillocks. Notice an informal trail leading to a green transformer box about 100 feet to the left of the road and a few feet higher than the road. Several artifacts of the ground house which supported the 1948 fire lookout tower are within 50 feet of the transformer box. A white porcelain sink sits against the slope of the hill; a 6-x 4-foot section of corrugated metal roofing leans against a tree between the sink and the road; and a set of three concrete steps which provided entry to the lookout staff’s ground house stands on the east side of a sturdy fir tree which was probably a sapling in the 1960s.
The informal trail continues up to the top of the hillock where the 1948 fire lookout tower stood. Discover an open area on the higher hillock, covered with moss. A bronze disc set in concrete crowns the hill. It is engraved US Coast and Geodetic Survey and has GOLD HILL 1954 stamped into its surface. This is the principal survey station marker for this location. About six feet to the west a bit of concrete sticks out, with the stub of an angle beam barely visible above the vegetation. Three angle beams are usually easy to find on this site, located just far enough apart to support the original 75-foot steel tower here. The bronze Reference Mark No.1 disc that stood in the center of the tower supports  was uncovered in winter 2022˗23, confirming the exact location of the original Gold Mountain lookout tower on the top of this hill.
You may also meet other explorers while visiting Gold Mountain. This peak has been identified on the internet as both the high point of Kitsap County and as a geocache site.
 State of Washington, Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Annual Reports of the Division of Forestry for the Period Commencing January 1, 1947 and Ending October 31, 1948, p. 24.
 The Department of Natural Resources received authority to withdraw 10 acres of Forest Board lands at this location for a “lookout and electronic site,”. Order 63˗302 signed by Bert L. Cole, Commissioner of Public Lands, March 15, 1963.
 Gloria Tyler. Ten˗Eight, July 1965, [p. 3.]
 Gloria Tyler. Ten˗Eight, July 1966, [p. 2.]
 Ray Kresek. Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, 2019 Revised Lookout Inventory, 23.
 Harvey Manning, Footloose 4: Walks and Hikes around Puget Sound. Seattle, The Mountaineers, p. 210˗212.
 Willhite and Mainwaring found a series of documents from the 1960s in Washington Department of Natural Resources regional property files which record the withdrawal from timber management of 10 acres on Gold Mountain ridge for “fire lookout and electronics,” The 1948 lookout site is at the northern edge of this 10˗acre site.
 US National Geodetic Survey Data Sheet PID SY5508 GOLD HILL LOOKOUT TOWER: https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/ds_mark.prl?PidBox=SY5508.