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PNW/North Cascades Help
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Brian Hedden
(BRHedden) - F

Locale: Massachusetts
PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 18:09:29 MDT Print View


I'm planning to do 6-day hike in the Pac NW and am looking for recommendations.

I'm arriving in Seattle on July 22 and have to be in Bellingham late on July 31. I'm considering two options:

First Option: Go first to Bellingham, then to Mount Baker. Do a 6-day (around 150 mile) loop starting and ending at Mount Baker. Are there good 6-day loops from there?

Second Option: Start on the PCT somewhere and end at Mount Baker. Where would be a feasible starting point on the PCT, where there would be around 150 miles of hiking to get to Mount Baker? Stehekin? And would that be easy to get to?

Thoughts? What would you do with 6 days of hiking, holding fixed that I have to be in Bellingham at the end of it?


Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 18:33:45 MDT Print View

I guess I'd look at a loop option, so you don't have to factor in transportation to another TH. Stehekin is loooong way from the Mt. Baker area, by boat on Lake Chelan.

Others can maybe comment on the snow level around Mt. Baker, but the NW has received a LOT of snowfall this season. I'm thinking Olympic NP might make a good choice as the snow might be more manageable by late July. If you put together a loop starting on the east side/Hood Canal, you can drive back to Bellingham within (probably) 3 hours (by ferry to and from Port Townsend). I did a great loop starting and ending near Brinnon on Hood Canal.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 21:32:44 MDT Print View

North Cascades Nat'l Park == A loop trip starts from the Hannegan Pass trail head on the west side of the Park, goes over Hannegan Pass to Copper Ridge, along that ridge going north toward the Canadian border, then down into the Chilliwack Valley, then south to Brush Creek, which is followed east up to Whatcom Pass. Return to the trail head by going back down Brush Creek, to the Chilliwack River, then south to go back up and over Hannegan Pass, and out to the trail head. Google Copper Ridge and Whatcom Pass for trip reports -- here's a report for the loop:

Another trip at the link below has a better trip -- traversing North Cascades Nat'l Park from west to east:

The traverse described at the above link includes nearly all of the above loop trip (Whatcom Pass and Copper Ridge), starting with a boat drop-off at Little Beaver Valley on Ross Lake and ending at the Hannegan Pass trail head. Logistical issue is that the traverse requires arranging to leave a car at the Hannegan Pass trailhead, and figuring out how to get to the start point of the traverse at the Ross Lake boat dock.

Edited by JRScruggs on 06/13/2011 21:34:39 MDT.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 21:51:05 MDT Print View

Brian -

There are a few trips I can think of - the most obvious fact is that snow and trail conditions will be the overriding consideration. We had a very snowy winter and a rather wet spring. The snowpack is very heavy at the moment in the North Cascades. A big hot spell would change things certainly, but it is tough to predict what might happen. And if it does happen, there will be blowdown to contend with early in the season in some spots.

That much said, think options. Truthfully, no matter where you need to go, you gotta get to the trailhead. I wouldn't necessarily restrict myself to one or two trips.

Let's start with a loop in Hannegan Pass area to Whatcom Pass and back via Copper Ridge. You can make it a loop, you can do it a couple of ways. It's about 52 miles with 13,600 feet of gain. Typically done in 5 to 6 days, but a lightweight hiker can go faster. The thing that will likely hold you up is snow on the trail or mud early in the season

Alternative, you could the hike from Hannegan Pass via Copper Ridge all the way over Whatcom Pass to Ross Lake. It's about a 54 mile go of it. Of course, when you get to the end, you are going be a long car ride back to Bellingham.

From Stevens Pass to the town of Steheiken along the PCT you can hike 105 miles through the Glacier Peak Wilderness and along the flanks of its namesake volcanic peak. THis is a challenging piece of trail, with some mighty ups and downs. BUt it is also very beautiful and honestly, generally rather uncrowded. You can get to Steheiken and take a ferry down to the other end of the lake to Chelan, where you would need a way to get back. (You can also continue along the PCT north if you would like to - Steheiken is a TINY town (just a few places) but it is on a lake, is charming and is one of the best trail stops on the PCT (the bakery is fantastic).

Another great loop is one that is often referred to hear - the Spider Gap to Lyman Lakes to Cloudy Pass to Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass. It's mostly a loop (there is a road walk at the end and it's best to find a hitch those last few miles). It's a classic Cascades loop, beautiful and fun. Takes, oh, I'd say four days but you can easily stretch that with some rather worthwhile side hikes. This is a favorite, although honestly, it isn't crowded. Oh, Image Lake might be, because of its iconic stature, but really, it's great to share it with a few people. Miner Ridge is worth exploring. It's about 53 miles with the side hikes around 11,000 feet of gain.

If the North Cascades proves to be snowed in that time of year, don't despair. There are many fine loops in the Olympics. I would recommend the Enchanted Valley - LaCrosse Basin loop in Olympic National Park. If you take a few side trips this is around 66 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing. Beautiful lakes, a great ridge walk, and very likely, a number of bear sightings in the Enchanted Valley itself. The Olympics will meltout before the North Cascades because of the elevation differences.

Great books that I think will help you plan your trip:

Backpacking Washington by Douglas Lrain (Wilderness Press)
Hiking from Here to WOW: North Cascades by Kathy and Craig Copelan (Wow Guides) (Formerly the Don't Waste Your Time in the North Cascades. Regardless, very opinionated guide which I find very helpful).

Some other websites:

Northewest Hikers
Awesome bunch of people who will give you the scoop on trail conditions and anything you ask of them. Great message boards. Excellent trip reports.

Washington Trails Association
Another great website full of trip reports. Highly recommended. Great organization that really does right by the trails. If you live in Washington, there is every reason to join.

Finally, besides checking on trail conditions I'd call the ranger districts for the most up-to-date information. Have fun on your trip!


Edited by dirk9827 on 06/13/2011 21:52:32 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 22:07:45 MDT Print View

@ Dirk: sounds like we're talking about the same area, or at least some overlap. Really beautiful area. One of my favorite loops in ONP starts up the road from Brinnon, has about 5+ miles of nice forest service road walking (no more cars because of a wash-out several years ago), up the Dosewallips river to Honeymoon Meadows, up and over La Crosse Pass, up the Duckabush River to La Crosse and Hart Lake, over O'Neill Pass with stunning views of Enchanted Valley, over Anderson Pass and back down the Dosewallips.

There are so many options for exploring ONP, starting anywhere between Hoodsport and Port Angeles that would keep you from driving the long hours needed to get to the west side of the park.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: PNW/North Cascades Help on 06/13/2011 22:43:28 MDT Print View

Steven -

You are absolutely correct, that area is complete overlap with the exception of the first part. I haven't hiked along that road off of Brinnon, that's great to know! (I've gone in via Hoodsport). Thank you for thetip! I agree, that area is fantastic. The only issue I had was that it clouded up something fierce so it was pretty misty/wet/rainy in the area of Hart Lake and O'Neill Pass, which reduced the views. I need to go back. It was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous.

I honestly really need to explore ONP further, for it is fantastic, especially when the weather cooperates. Besides, even though it can get pretty crowded, it still has a favorite dayhike (particularly on a weekday) in Mt. Townsend. Fantastic views of the five major peaks (Baker, Glacier, Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens on a clear day) from the top!

Ok, enough of my thread hijack... :)

Edited by dirk9827 on 06/13/2011 22:43:58 MDT.

Brian Hedden
(BRHedden) - F

Locale: Massachusetts
Snowpack and Hitching on 06/14/2011 09:41:53 MDT Print View

Thanks so much for all the replies!! Lots to digest.

I think I'll either do an ONP loop (which had been a bit off my radar) or get to North Cascades NP and do a loop (which might include some of the surrounding national forests). If I do the latter, I could end at Mount Baker Highway, which I've heard* makes for a somewhat easy hitch.

Regarding the snow, is it often that heavy even into late July? I did the Sierras last summer in June with heavy snowpack, but the Sierras would still be pretty clear by late July. Are the Cascades so much worse than the Sierras that it's still heavy that late in the summer?

In any event, it does seem that doing a loop (ending either back in Seattle from ONP or maybe Mount Baker Hwy coming from NCNP) is the way to go, building in plenty of flexibility to deal with trail conditions, timing, and all that.

Thanks for the help!

Laural Bourque

Locale: PNW
this year is special on 07/07/2011 22:29:09 MDT Print View

The winter snowfall wasn't actually that big of a deal, but the spring was the coldest on record for 40+ years. June 26th was the first day with 80F temps in Seattle. I'm not super familiar with the Sierras, but even they are bad this year I've heard. Not a single person who signed up to do the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier so far this summer has spent more than one night on it. They are talking about not plowing the highest road to Mt. Baker, too. So, yeah, it's really bad this year.