I wanted to find a new hike to try out for my birthday and Paton's Lookout didn't disappoint. It worked out great as an early season hike; it had modest vertical, was well-flagged, had great views along the way, and there was no snow along the trail. The views of the Seymour Valley were beautiful. Coliseum, Burwell, and Cathedral all tower in the background, building anticipation for some of the more grandiose excursions to come later in the season.
The nearest parking lot is by Rice Lake, so it's about 9.5 km down the Lower Seymour Conservatory Road to get there, best done on a bike. The bike trail was unbelievably smooth and offered some rewarding views on its own. Just before you hit the service road junction 10 km down the trailway, there should be a paved road that jets left up the mountain for about 10 m before the pavement ends and a grassy trail begins. Go up about 500 m and stash your bikes in the brush. From there, continue to an old creek bed where just before it there should be a trail that turns right into the brush and up the mountain.
The trail is quite steep but well-marked. There are no artificial steps along the trail, which I personally liked. If it weren't for the flags, you would feel like you were simply on an animal trail. This makes the descent a little tough on the knees, but really enhances the feeling of being in the wilderness. The vast expanse found at the top of the lookout far surpassed anything we had expected. Definitely take the time to roam around at the top, as you can find a variety of different views depending on where you lookout from. My friend built an inukshuk near the eastern cliff edge and we stopped to have lunch. Once you reach the bottom, reclaim your bikes and head back to Rice Lake.
Ascent time was 2hr 40 mins, descent time was 2hr. We made many stops for pictures, you could easily shave 30-45 mins off of that ascent time. The bike time was an hour each way on a rusty bike with a warped tire. In total, I would plan on taking 6hr to do the round trip starting from the Rice Lake parking lot. ...