Earth Day 2020

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day evokes images of wild places: broad vistas of desert, ocean and mountains.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammelled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”[29]

Earth Day is about protecting these places and keeping them wild.

The raw nature of wilderness and its inherent aesthetic beauty often leave me short of breath, amazed at what I see and grateful for the chance to be a part of it.

In the wilderness is freedom. There is no one to tell you what to do. Knowing these untrammled places are there, and that you can go visit them is integral to sanity, to survival.  They say that wilderness can heal a person and I believe it’s true.

Pictures speak words, they say…

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

Along Cascade River Road

The hike from the Skagit Valley up and over Cascade Pass and down along the river to the remote village of Stehekin, on the northern shore of Lake Chelan is a magnificent journey. Sort of like crossing the Misty Mountains to get to Rivendell, there is a lot to see!

It is a 23 mile (37 km) hike from the Cascade Pass parking lot to High Bridge, where shuttle service is available to Stehekin. The entire trip falls with in the North Cascades National Park. Depending upon your level of motivation the basic trip can be done in 2 or 3 days.

However I would recommend 3 or 4 days for the trip. There are several detours along the way that are really to incredible to miss.

The journey starts along the Cascade Loop Highway in Marblemount. The North Cascades National Park Wilderness Information Center is located there. To camp anywhere in the park you need a permit. Here is all you need to know to obtain one! I highly recommend the trail guide: “Hiking the North Cascades” by Erik Molvar (Falcon Press). There are accurate and detailed descriptions of the trails and you’ll find a lot of useful info.

Once that’s all done you’ll be heading up the Cascade River Road to its end, at the parking lot for Cascade Pass. The road gets a bit sketchy at the end, and you wont be able to stop gawking at the views!

The trip has one up section, and this is it: 3.7 miles of switch backs to Cascade Pass, an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. The views start near the top, there is one last switchback and then the trail turns east and approaches the pass.

The Pass is a great place for a break, and you’ll see a lot of people there. From this spot, its all down hill to Stehekin!

Dropping from Cascade Pass the trail navigates around the upper basin and soon passes the Pelton Basin campground. It’s not long before the switchbacks start. Whereas the trail up to the pass from the Skagit side is completely in forest, here the trail is exposed to the hot sun.

One nice surprise is the waterfall along Doubtful Creek as it bisects the trail on the east side of Cascade Pass, where there are small pools providing a much needed break and swim.

Many people who make the sojourn from Cascade Pass to Lake Chelan make a straight trip from the Cascade Pass parking area to Stehekin, with no side trips. But there is one of the most awesome valleys in all the North Cascades (Horseshoe Basin) that you should not pass up as you make your journey.

A short distance from Doubtful Creek is the trail to Horseshoe Basin. You can drop your big packs and day hike up to the Basin, or, if you scored a camp site at Basin Creek Camp, you can stay an extra day exploring Horseshoe Basin and the Black Warrior Mine.

The trail follows the stream up from the trail junction into Horseshoe Basin; it follows a course along the stream, across the stream and in the stream, brushy and wet. Shortly the trail emerges into a clearing where boulders dot the basin floor. Climbing up on the largest, the view is transfixing. The green bowl is surrounded with grandeur, full of color and drama.

Horseshoe Basin, North Cascades National Park

The Horseshoe Basin trail is less than 2 easy miles from the trail junction to the head of the valley and the Mine. black warrior mine

The North Cascades are full of old mining claims; piles of colorful tailings and rusted remains of sluices and Pelton wheels littered about. But I had never visited a mine that I could enter and explore. The Black Warrior Mine operated until the mid-1950′s and is a National Historic Place. There is a sign at the entrance giving a brief history of the mine, the names of the prospectors and misled investors who poured their mostly futile efforts into this hole. There are two main cavernous rooms blasted into the mountain side which make the opening of the mine. One of these “rooms” served as a kitchen while the other was used for workbenches and tools. Wooden supports and floor boards are flooded with water. Old tables and remains of habitation litter the floor. The shaft of the mine runs deep; several miles of tunnel remain, open for any brave person to explore.

When you tire of the basin and continue on your way down the Stehekin Valley you’ll pass several camp sites: Cottonwood Camp was once the last stop on the bus route from Stehekin! Traveling is pretty easy, for the most part you are following along the road following the bus route to Stehekin. But the road has been washed away in several places, replaced by a foot trail.

At Park Creek is another camp and the trail (Park Creek Trail) heads up to Park Creek Pass and continues over and down to Colonial Creek camp, on Highway 20.

Bridge Creek is another large camp along your route and is where you meet the Pacific Crest Trail. From here its 5 miles to High Bridge. Many years ago the entire road washed away in a flood. So for the next 5 miles you’ll be hiking along the PCT!

IF you have the time and energy, plan another day here and make a day trip up the North Fork of Bridge Creek. Its too long to describe here and will be the subject of an entire post soon!

Walking along the Stehekin River Road is in itself fantastic. The river cuts a deep cleft through the cliffs at High Bridge and the confluence with Bridge Creek creates a wondrous series of cataracts and islands. From High Bridge there is a regular bus that takes you the last 10 miles to Stehekin. Check the Park Service site for the bus schedule.

Your hike must include a visit to the Stehekin Pastry Company. Delicious, fresh treats, ice cream, espresso, friendly staff and a comfortable place to relax…

Everything about Stehekin is awesome. Its remoteness (you can only reach it by hiking, ferry boat or float plane), the people are cool, scads of awesome things to see and do…even the Post Office is a neat place to just visit!

Beside the Pastry Company there is a restaurant, a lodge, and a post office. Thru hikers on the PCT mail resupply items to them selves at Stehekin. Its the last stop on the route to Canada. Late in the summer you will often run into some of the PCT hikers as they finish the last few days of their 2,400 mile trek!

When you’re done restin’ and ready to go home you can either walk back the way you came, or catch the Lady of the Lake to Chelan!

Here are a few more images from the trail…

 

 

 

North Cascades Photography – Winter on the Cascade Loop

North Cascades Photography – Winter on the Cascade Loop

The severity of winter in Western Washington is all about elevation. The lowlands usually get very little snow, not counting this year of course! And the mountains get slammed. Several of the mountain passes in Washington close in winter due to snow avalanche conditions. The North Cascades Highway, SR 20, is one of them.

North Cascades Highway, Diablo Overlook

Crossing the North Cascade range at Washington Pass (5,477 ft el.) the North Cascades Highway closes each fall, usually mid November, and reopens each spring mid to late May.

On the west side the highway is gated for the winter at Colonial Creek Campground (milepost 131). Depending upon the severity of the snow it is usually gated about a mile further east, just past the parking area for the Diablo Lake Overlook.

As I drive up the valley quick peaks of the mountains pop into view. This is from a spot near Cascadian Farms.

Skagit River

The main visitors center for the North Cascades National Park is in Newhalem. Just behind the visitors center is a short trail to a great view of the Picket Range, a particularly rugged section of the Park.

Diablo Dam and Pyramid Peak make a perfect spot for sunset images!

The road is gated just beyond Colonial Creek Camp Ground. There is plenty of parking and easy access for snowmobiles and anyone wanting to hike along the snow covered (and closed) highway.

Its a winter wonderland out there, but I can’t wait for warm temps and wildflowers!

Lake Ann from the Maple Pass Trail

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

The hike from Skagit Valley, over Cascade Pass and down to the remote village of Stehekin on the shores of Lake Chelan is one of the classic hiking routes in Washington State. The trail follows an old Native American path used for millennia to cross the mountains.

Cascade Pass

Cascade Pass

It is a 23 mile (37 km) hike from the Cascade Pass parking lot to High Bridge, where shuttle service is available to Stehekin.

Cascade River Road

Cascade River Road

Driving up the North Cascades Highway, which is a part of the much longer Cascade Loop Scenic Highway,  to Marblemount and up along the Cascade River Road my heart always revs up with excitement. We made an early start and schlepped up the 40-something switchbacks to Cascade Pass.

The day promised to be a hot one and after a short rest we hoisted our packs and headed down, down, down…

I have hiked most of the trails in North Cascades National Park with the notable exception of the section we would cover today: From Cascades Pass east to Basin Creek (and Horseshoe Basin!)

Stehekin Valley Trail and Doubtful Creek, North Cascades National Park

Dropping from Cascade Pass the trail navigates around the upper basin and soon passes the Pelton Basin campground. It’s not long before the switchbacks start. Whereas the trail up to the pass from the Skagit side is completely in forest, here the trail is exposed to the hot sun. Hiking down here I am already dreading the trip back up!

One nice surprise was the waterfall along Doubtful Creek as it bisects the trail on the east side of Cascade Pass, where there are small pools providing a much needed break and swim.

Many people who make the sojourn from Cascade Pass to Lake Chelan make a straight trip from the parking area to Stehekin, with no side trips. But there are two of the most awesome valleys in all the North Cascades (Horseshoe Basin and the North Fork of Bridge Creek) that you should not pass up as you make your journey.

We made it to the trail junction with the spur to Horseshoe Basin, dropped our packs and headed up for a look-see. Having scoured many route guides about the North Cascades I had read about the amazing beauty of Horseshoe Basin, but honestly was not prepared for what we saw there…

Horseshoe Basin, North Cascades National Park

The trail follows the stream up from the trail junction into Horseshoe Basin; it follows a course along the stream, across the stream and in the stream, brushy and wet. Shortly the trail emerges into a clearing where boulders dot the basin floor. Climbing up on the largest, the view is transfixing. The green bowl is surrounded with grandeur, full of color and drama.

The basin was aglow in the afternoon light, orange granite spires surrounding the lip like fangs, too-numerous-to-count waterfalls glistening, their sparkling waters plunging down into the valley. There were wildflowers popping out everywhere, yellows and purples, reds and blues, all accenting the deep green of the basin floor.

Glory Mountain from Horseshoe Basin, North Cascades National Park

We hurried on, racing the sun, heading up the valley, climbing across boulders and scree, on to a snow field, up to the gaping hole of the Black Warrior Mine.

The Horseshoe Basin trail is less than 2 easy miles from the trail junction to the head of the valley and the Mine.

The North Cascades are full of old mining claims; piles of colorful tailings and rusted remains of

Black Warrior Mine

sluices and Pelton wheels littered about. But I had never visited a mine that I could enter and explore.

The Black Warrior Mine operated until the mid-1950′s and is a National Historic Place. There is a sign at the entrance giving a brief history of the mine, the names of the prospectors and misled investors who poured their mostly futile efforts into this hole. There are two main cavernous rooms blasted into the mountain side which make the opening of the mine. One of these “rooms” served as a kitchen while the other was used for workbenches and tools. Wooden supports and floor boards are flooded with water. Old tables and remains of habitation litter the floor. The shaft of the mine runs deep; several miles of tunnel remain, open for any brave person to explore.

Black Warrior Mine

The wonder of the place is still with me. Maybe its the history, all of the people who worked so long and hard here, digging and scraping for naught. Here, as in many of the North Cascade valleys, it was miners who blazed the trails that we now use to visit the high country. The road from Stehekin, long ago, came all the way to the mine entrance. Over time nature has reclaimed the road, now vehicles can only go as far as High Bridge, 17 miles downstream.

The falling sun chased us out of the valley, we camped at Basin Creek camp.

The next morning we started our pleasant hike along the trail to Cottonwood Camp and on towards our rendezvous with the shuttle bus at High Bridge.

Our timing was perfect; we made it to High Bridge (On the Stehekin River Road) and caught the North Cascades National Park shuttle down the valley.

Along the way our jam-packed tourist bus passed a huge black bear and her two cubs foraging for berries; I was disappointed to miss the chance to visit and capture a few images, but my chance would come soon enough!

stehekin pastry companyEvery hike to Stehekin must includes a visit to the Stehekin Pastry Company. Delicious, fresh treats, ice cream, espresso, friendly staff and a comfortable place to relax…we went here first and ate as many pastries as we could hold.

It was a hot day in Stehekin. So we took shelter at the local restaurant and then took the bus back up the valley to visit Rainbow Falls. The 300 foot cataract provided lots of cooling!

Everything about Stehekin is awesome. Its remoteness (you can only reach it by hiking, ferry boat or float plane), the people are cool, scads of awesome things to see and do…even the Post Office is a neat place to just visit!

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Next we visited the old Stehekin School house and then the local organic farm. Now we needed to await the last shuttle bus back up the valley, and what better place to while away the time than at the Stehekin Pastry Company!

Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan

The last shuttle was full when we boarded and headed back towards High Bridge. But after the bus stop at Courtney Ranch we were the only ones left for the rest of the trip.

From the “bus stop” at High Bridge we hiked 5 easy miles to the trail junction at Bridge Creek and camped the night. From here you can make a side trip to one of the most remote valleys in the North Cascades National Park. The trail is called the North Fork Bridge Creek Trail and its remote because its a one-way affair, not a through-trail. The round trip from your camp at Bridge Creek along the Cascade River road to North Fork Meadows and the head of the valley is 16 miles, but the hiking is not strenuous. You head east on the Bridge Creek Trail (which is also the Pacific Crest Trail here) to the scenic North Fork Camp.

Goode Mountain, North Cascades National Park

Goode Mountain, North Cascades National Park

The trail climbs a few short switchbacks to a junction with the North Fork Trail, head left, north. SignThe trail passes Walker Camp and soon you’ll get a glimpse of the wonders of the valley. Continuing along the way you’ll pass Grizzly Creek Camp and have to ford the creek. As the trail meanders its way gently upward the trees thin and you’ll break out into a spectacular meadow with views of Goode Mountain (highest peak in the North Cascades National Park) and Mount Logan at the head of the valley. From here the hike is almost all out on the open, the North Fork Meadows is a wonderful green wonderland.

North Fork, Bridge Creek

Wildflowers bloom, bears forage and waterfalls stream down from the glaciers above. The path winds its way up, passing numerous waterfalls to its terminus at the base of a wonderful cataract. here you are surrounded on three sides by steep peaks, cloaked in glaciers with countless waterfalls.

Mount Logan and North Fork Bridge Creek Waterfall, North Cascades National Park

When you can finally pull yourself away, its time to head back down the trail to your camp at  Bridge Creek Camp. The next day we continue our hike back up towards Cascade Pass.

The hike along the Stehekin River Road is in itself fantastic. The river cuts a deep cleft through the cliffs at High Bridge and the confluence with Bridge Creek creates a wondrous series of cataracts and islands.

The next day we again left before sunrise, hoping to beat the heat on our way up to Cascade Pass. We reached Basin Creek with its flown-in foot bridge and were greeted by a nice breeze and perfect skies.

 

North Cascades Backpacking and Photo Tours

If you would like to visit any of these places with a very small group and learn photography skills at the same time, here is your link!

Horseshoe Basin

Tracing our earlier steps from a few days ago, we hiked up into the valley, but this time not all the way to the mine entrance. I worked on my mostly futile efforts to capture the grandeur of the flowers, spires and waterfalls, and then we headed back down to our packs and continued the slog to Cascade Pass and back to the parking area.

The change in flora as I trudged up the switch backs was enormous. The lower basin on the east side of Cascade Pass is filled with Cottonwood trees and Douglas Fir. A few miles above the trail traverses the mountain side and is bereft of any plants, just crushed rocks and boulders. Then the trail swings south and starts its zigzagging route upwards. Here the path is choked with slide alder.

As the trail approaches the upper basin just below Cascade Pass the temperature dropped considerably. From sunny to misty, the forest was now populated with tall sub-alpine fir and a carpet of evergreen needles covered the trail. It was like we had been transported into a new landscape.

We arrived at the top of Cascade Pass and stopped to re-energize before flying down the switchbacks to our car. Gazing east, down the valley which we had just climbed I marveled at the beauty of the mountains.

And I was already planning a return trip.

Any and all of these images are for sale as prints, canvas wraps and digital downloads! Here is the link to the Gallery.

Sahale Mountain from the Stehekin Valley Trail

 

North Cascades Photography – Introduction

Welcome to North Cascades Photography

Each week we will visit some place in the North Cascades. The best camp sites; day hikes and overnight trips; lookout towers, the best locations for sunrises, sunsets and night sky imaging. Whether you’re into a week long trip, or the best place for a drive-in view, I will cover  the best times to go and How To Tips ranging from How to set exposure for a shot of the Milky Way to Where to see Mountain Goats? 

Introduction

My fascination with the North Cascades started with a map.

In 1976 one of my friends read the Nat Geo article about a through hiker on the PCT. Several of us had recently finished a month long Outward Bound program in the Sawtooths, backpacking and rock climbing and we were excited for a new adventure.

I still have the map, from 1976

A few glances at the images and I was sending away for maps. When they finally arrived in the mail I poured over them, tracing the PCT and looking at the terrain.

Pacific Crest Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

It was the first time I’d heard of places like the Pasayten Wilderness and Crater Lake. At that time there was little to read about the trail, most of the planning for a thru hike was up to you.

When you study a map, planning mileage, elevation gain and water sources you try to envision the place. There were more then 20 maps for Washington and Oregon I sorted through, tracing the PCT and making plans. The place I was most captivated with, the most excited about visiting was the North Cascades. I wanted to see the Picket Range and hike over Whatcom Pass.

Mt Adams and Pacific Crest Trail, Goat Rocks Wilderness

First of all, it was clearly the most rugged section. There were other sections with higher summits, like Mt Rainier and Mt Adams.

But these giant peaks were surrounded by much smaller mountains. The North Cascades boasted the greatest density of topographical map lines. I imagined wave after wave of serrated ridges; steep U-shaped valleys, cloaked in green and mantled with glaciers. The names of the places fueled my imagination: Mount Terror and Mount Fury, Desolation Peak, Diablo Lake and Forbidden Peak were just a few. I couldn’t wait to get there. The only problem was that it wasn’t the easiest place to get to!

Sunset at Sahale Camp, North Cascades National Park

In the end we decided to hike the PCT through Oregon.  We hitchhiked from eastern Pennsylvania to Cascade Locks, Oregon, along the Columbia River and started our journey south.

My travels led me to many places, decades passed. But the allure and wonder of this place I’d never seen stuck with me.

 

 

 

Sahale Camp

It was 30 years before I made it back to see the places I’d dreamed of: Copper Ridge and the Chilliwack River, Mt Challenger and the Pickets…

I feel privileged to be able to see such things and humbled trying to capture some part of it in an image.

Now I live along the North Cascades Highway. Living on the doorstep of the mountains makes it easy to visit often. I truly feel at home.

Each week North Cascades Photography will visit some place in the North Cascades and share info on the best trails, camp sites, day hikes, long hikes, drive-in vistas, locations for Night Sky imaging and of course lots and lots of images.

You can always find out more about Trips, Classes, Photo Tours and more at my web site, AndyPorterImages.com

Next: The North Cascades Highway

Welcome to the North Cascades

 

 

Jackita Ridge Trail, Devil’s Dome and the Three Fools Trail

One of the most fabulous backpacking loops I have ever done was in the Pasayten Wilderness.

We began at Canyon Creek trailhead, along Highway 20, hiked up the Jackita Ridge Trail, visited Devils Dome, then connected with the Pacific Crest Trail at Holman Pass and headed north. At Castle Pass we took the Three Fools Trail west, to Ross Lake, where we got the water taxi to Ross Dam and hitchhiked back home.

Here are a few pics from the trip.

Sunset atop Devils Dome, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades

Sunset atop Devils Dome, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades

This first one is a sunset from atop Devils Dome. We spent the night there, (08/08/08) and were observers of a spectacle of lightning storms that swept through that night, starting innumerable fires throughout the park. Like three fools we stayed there, atop the Devils Dome, mouths agape, as the night sky erupted and just watched.

 

Jack Mountain from Devils Dome, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades

Jack Mountain from Devils Dome, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades

This is Jack Mountain, from Devils Dome.  Hiking in the Pasayten Wilderness is wonderful, lots of views and flowers.

Cascade Crest from Jackita Ridge Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

Cascade Crest from Jackita Ridge Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

This was taken from the Jackita Ridge Trail, looking west – southwest. That long green meadow inviting you is Devils Garden.

Here is another view from the trail.

Jack Mountain, Pasayten Wilderness

Jack Mountain, Pasayten Wilderness

After Devils Dome we made our way to Holman Pass where we intersected the PCT and turned north. The image on the right is from a glorious meadow (with a spring) just before Rock Pass. And the Double Rainbows is at Rock Pass looking north. That’s Lakeview Ridge stretching to the distance.

The wildflowers are all over (assuming you’re there at the right time!)

The Three Fools Trail was a struggle. It hadn’t been maintained in more that a decade, there were more than 200 down trees between Elbow Basin and Three Fools Creek…it was brutal!

The sunsets, however, were magnificent. This is from Elbow Basin.

The Three Fools Trail lived up to its hype: Stunning scenery, no one to be seen anywhere and you’d have to be a fool to try!

 

Big Face Mountain from the Three Fools Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

Big Face Mountain from the Three Fools Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

Here is Big Face Mountain from the trail.

 

Ross Lake from the Lightning Creek Trail, North Cascades National Park

Ross Lake from the Lightning Creek Trail, North Cascades National Park

and lastly, Ross Lake, from the Lightning Creek Trail.

That was my first visit to the section of the PCT from Holman Pass, north to the border with Canada. I have revisited several times, access is not bad, at Slate Peak. You can park at a junction with the PCT, at 7,000 ft elevation to start your hike!

The views along Lakeview Ridge are to die for…that will be the subject of the next post!

Oh, the hitchhiking home part: When we debarked the water taxi and hiked up to Highway 20 we were more than a bit surprised to see hordes of cops. Not just regular ones, Border Patrol, guys in kevlar with nasty weapons, the place was swarming with them!

Eventually one of the cops came over to ID us sketchy looking hitchhikers and being polite and all the cop arranged a ride for us home. It turned out that a Park Employee had stumbled upon a huge marijuana farm, right there, near Ross Lake! So they came up with the swat team and got boats and went to raid the pot farm, but by the time they got there, the farmers had fled to parts unknown…

Happy 50th Birthday, North Cascades National Park

Fifty years ago, on October 2, 1967, the North Cascades National Park was created.

Happy Birthday!

Diablo Overlook Panorama

From the first time I laid eyes on a map of the North Cascades I was captivated. The names of the peaks drew me in; Mt. Terror, Desolation Peak, Mount Fury. And then I saw a few pictures. The North Cascades looked like I thought mountains should look: deep dark forests, lush with life; sharp serrated peaks, ridge, after ridge, stretching to the horizon, donned with glaciers, spouting myriad waterfalls glistening in the sun….

My first visit was a mostly cloudy one. I hiked over Park Creek Pass from Stehekin. There were a few glimmers through the clouds of the majesty beyond.

 

 

It would be many years before I returned and tried again.

And I was able to confirm that indeed the North Cascades were everything I had dreamed of.

Lush forests and waterfalls

Sharp serrated peaks

Meadows and wildflowers…

and endless vistas

The North Cascades have not lost the feeling of wildness. For that I am grateful!

Happy Birthday, and Thank you, North Cascades National Park!

 

 

Silesia Camp and Copper Ridge, North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park turns 50 this year! Learn more about its history here.

This is the 4th post in a series highlighting spectacular places in the North Cascades National Park. You can access earlier posts here.

Silesia Camp is located along Copper Ridge in the northern section of the North Cascades National Park.

You can hike there in one day, access is from the Hannegan Pass trail head. You must have a permit to camp there. Details here.

There are few camp sites with a better view then Silesia Camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diablo Lake Overlook, North Cascades National Park

The Diablo Lake Overlook is located on Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) at mile marker 132 and is a part of the Cascade Loop .

From the intersection of Highway 20 and Interstate 5, its about 90 minutes drive to get there. The overlook is just east of Colonial Creek Campground. Open to traffic year round, its a wonderful place for sunsets.

Diablo Overlook Panorama

Night sky imaging is also wonderful at the overlook, the lake below and Colonial Peak above make for some stunning shots.

Diablo Overlook

Night 4

Cascade Loop

Stars at the Diablo Overlook, North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is situated in the northwestern corner of Washington State, along the Canada border. It’s a wonderfully rugged piece of wilderness, half a million acres of meadows, jagged peaks, glaciers, forests and wonder.

The North Cascades National Park does not get a lot of visitors, by National Park standards. That’s due in part, to the fact that the park is not on the way somewhere, unless you’re circumnavigating the US border! It’s a 3 hour drive, north from Seattle. In short, it’s an out of the way place. If you got there, its because you meant to!

Which is all fine with me. Less people means more solitude.

The park is bisected by the North Cascades Highway into two units. The North Unit is more remote than its southern sister. There are fewer trails.

The legendary Picket Range is here. Peaks like Mount Terror, Mount Despair and Mt Challenger tower over the deep, wet valleys filled with nasty things like Devils Club.

Trail access from the west side is via Hannegan Pass. Heading east from the town of Glacier on SR 542 (Mt Baker Hwy) for 13 miles there is a well marked turn off for the Hannegan Pass trailhead.

All sorts of important info about permits to camp overnight in the park, can be found here

Its about 4 miles to the pass, and from there you can do a short easy scramble to the top of Hannegan Peak, or a more involved climb of Ruth Mountain.

Just down the east side from the pass you enter the National Park. There is a campsite, Boundary Camp, and a trail junction. You can ascend Copper Ridge to Silesia Camp and Egg Lake, or follow the main trail down the Chilliwack River (there is a spot where you pull yourself over a chasm in a cable car) to a junction where you meet a turn off for the trail to Whatcom Pass.

This is one of the more remote parts of the park. The views of Mt Challenger and its namesake glacier are mind blowing. I have visited twice, the first visit was magnificent, and the most recent a total white out of gray.

From Whatcom Pass you can retrace your steps back to the car, or you can continue your trip east, and hike down along Little Beaver Creek to the shores of Ross Lake and take a water taxi to Ross Lake Resort,  or hike out via Beaver Pass.

A longer and more spectacular trip is to take the turn off for Copper Ridge. This is one of the few ridge hikes in the park, affording breathtaking views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and host of other peaks. There are several camp site along Copper Ridge, Silesia Camp has the best views anywhere, and Copper Lake is a wonderful place to camp along the route.

The trail loops down the Chilliwack River, which you ford just south of the Canada border.

In early August expect to be wading through a river filled with salmon. It is quite a sight. From there its an easy hike to the junction with the Whatcom Pass Trail, and so you can make a loop out of the trek.

 

The Southern Unit has many more access points along Highway 20, Ross Lake to the east and Lake Chelan to the south. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through on its way to Canada.

In the next two posts we will visit some of the most spectacular areas in the lower section of the park.

Here is an image of Mount Logan from the North Fork Bridge Creek.

Mount Logan, North Cascades National Park