Forum Index » Pre-Trip Planning » 2 week backpack trip in North Cascades


Display Avatars Sort By:
Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
2 week backpack trip in North Cascades on 04/25/2013 13:40:05 MDT Print View

I have the last 2 weeks of August off, free to backpack. I got turned down for my Wonderland Trail itinerary, so I'm looking around for other long loops to go play on. I've never backpacked the North Cascades, so that seemed like it might be a good place to go. My boyfriend and I are slow hikers and rarely go longer than 12 miles per day.

There's a 25 mile loop out of Twisp, incorporating Twisp pass and McAlester pass--but that's not long enough. I want to go out for at least a week, long enough that I can leave everyday life behind.

The other possibility would be a base camp situation, with several day trips out of it. We could do an out-and-back, but we prefer loops whn we can.

Any suggestions?

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Pasayten Wilderness on 04/25/2013 13:57:18 MDT Print View

Boundary Trail in the Pasayten Wilderness. 90 miles end to end (Iron Gate to the PCT) plus (I think) 30 miles south on the PCT to hike out. Requires very long car shuttle or drop-off/pickup between Harts Pass and Iron Gate TH on the eastern end, but well worth it. You could also schedule the western pickup in the Ross/Diablo Dam area. You will see very few people! Resupply could be a problem--would probably require hiring a packer. This is part of the Pacific Northwest Trail, and the best journal i've read includes that section of trail here (note that this section of his journal starts sooner and ends later):
http://cwillett.imathas.com/pnt/leg5.html

You could of course do two one-week loops, thus neatly solving the resupply problem. One, an outstanding scenic classic in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, is the Spider Meadow/Lyman Lakes/Image Lake/Buck Creek Pass loop. The car shuttle between the Phelps Creek and Trinity trailheads, is only 2 miles; if you go in or come out on a weekend you should be able to get a ride. If you're going to walk it, do it at the start of the trip, not at the end; the first day to Spider Meadow is a short and easy 5 miles. A second loop would be the Chelan Summit Trail, in the Chelan/Sawtooth Wilderness, which can be done as a neat if somewhat strenuous loop using the Lady of the Lake ferry on Lake Chelan--drop off at Prince Creek, 4,000 feet elevation gain to the summit, hike the summit trail to Purple Pass, then a similar drop to Stehekin and return via the ferry (after visiting the bakery, of course!).

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/25/2013 14:10:59 MDT.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
wow! on 04/25/2013 14:03:58 MDT Print View

Now, that's ambitious! I've wanted to thru hike the Pacific Northwest Trail, have read Chris Townsend's book Razor Clams and Grizzly Bears, I'll check out that section.

Keep 'em coming!

Ian Destroyer of Forums
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Cascade Hikes on 04/25/2013 15:10:47 MDT Print View

These aren't loops but the PCT between White and Chinook Pass is a fun 30 miler. I recommend hiking it NOBO as the scenery starts out fine and keeps improving as you head north.

My understanding is the PCT between Chinook and Snoqualmie pass is not great and a lot of clearcut.

The PCT between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass is about 75 miles if memory serves. I haven't hiked it but supposedly it is very beautiful and a bit more challenging when compared to the White Pass - Chinook section.

Leavenworth Washington is a charming Bavarian town with a nice collection of trails. The Enchantments are often cited as one of the best in the state, if not the country. Permits are reported to be even more brutal than the Wonderland so I'm going to day hike it from TH to TH this summer. Some people opt to just to do a there-and-back to Aasgard Pass.

Goat Rocks has an outstanding reputation but I haven't been there either.

Post something on BPL before you go and you might find one of us locals available to help out with a shuttle.

Have fun!

Edit: My bad! Just re read your post and realized that a) you're out of western Washignton (didn't see that on my phone) and b) you were specifically looking at the North Cascades.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/26/2013 10:38:47 MDT.

pack nwcurt
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
2 week backpack trip in North Cascades on 04/26/2013 09:24:38 MDT Print View

That's a perfect time to hit the North Cascades! Too bad about your Wonderland permit (although I'd rather be in the NC than Rainier at that time anyway :)

The Glacier Peak advice is excellent. You can do a lot of big loops and side trips in there. The Spider/Phelps trip is stunning. Start with that and add side trips and you'd have a life-list trip for sure.

Can't go wrong with the Pasaytan, either. Amazing place. Personally I wouldn't go to Chelan area at that time. It'll be very dusty and very hot.

There's a book (out of print??) called "Trekking Washington" by Woodmansee, I believe the author's name is. It is - by far - the best long distance backpacking book for Washington. It's focused entirely on big trips. It includes what he claims is the longest loop trip in the lower 48 where no trail is repeated and no roads are crossed. 275 miles or something like that if I remember right. I'd highly recommend this book for a 2 week trip. He's got everything from a few days to two full weeks in there.

Good luck!

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
I'm an idiot on 04/27/2013 06:54:07 MDT Print View

I forgot that I had that Trekking Washington book; it got shoved to the back of the book shelf, behind all the day hiking books! The loop around Glacier Peak looks intriguing. Don't know that we're up for the Boundary Trail experience just yet, but looks like something to reach for in a few years.

I'll let you know what we decide. Now I almost don't know what to do, too many choices!

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
walk-in permits on 04/28/2013 17:45:04 MDT Print View

You could try for a walk-in permit on the Wonderland, I've heard quite a few success stories with that strategy.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
walk-in on 04/28/2013 17:49:16 MDT Print View

If we were just trying to go for a few days, I would go that route. We had an eleven day itinerary worked out, and the chances of being able to get a full circuit seems doubful at best. I'm a planner, I like to know in advance how the logistics are going to work, so I'm just too leery to do it. We have done the Wonderland trail before, so it's not like I'm missing out completely. The main thing we are going to miss, we were going on the Northern Loop to get up into Windy Gap, which is beautiful. It's a really remote area, but I might try to work out a multi-day backpack just into that area.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"2 week backpack trip in North Cascades" on 04/28/2013 19:44:25 MDT Print View

I think that you'll be very happy with any of the routes around Glacier Peak. You can also access this area from Holden, or even Stehekin (lovely boat ride out of Chelan or 25 Mile Creek required.) Different from, but easily rivals Rainier in that gob-smacked spectacular way. A bit more remote. Since you've done Rainier, perfect!

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Glacier Peak access on 04/29/2013 13:16:43 MDT Print View

With the Suiattle River Road washed out, how are folks accessing the Glacier Peak Wilderness area, specifically right around Glacier Peak itself?

pack nwcurt
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Glacier Peak access on 04/29/2013 21:04:27 MDT Print View

There are a LOT of ways to get into Glacier Peak with the time you have. The Spider Meadow/Phelps route (premier location!) is easy to get to off of Highway 2. Well traveled and straightforward. I'd go that way for sure if I was going into that area.

With all the time you have, doing the Lake Chelan/Stehekin thing would add a huge sense of adventure. After almost 20 years on the trails in Washington I finally went up that way last year for the first time. Start out in desert, finish in deep mountains with access to the heart of the North Cascades. It really is like going backwards in time. No cell service. No TVs. No internet. The two or three shops in town are usually open for just a couple of hours a day. Locals walk down to the waterfront and drink coffee in their bathrobes and catch up on the news - or lack thereof. There's a shuttle that drives deeper up the valley to trailheads. Certainly not necessary to make it an adventure, but it's pretty neat and you'll remember it for a good long time. You could boat up, hike for a week or more, and then boat back down to where you started. Great way to start and finish a trip!

Suiattle is only one way in. There are many others with great access.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Holden/Pacific Crest Trail/Sahalee/Stehekin on 05/01/2013 13:13:33 MDT Print View

I haven't sat down and figured out the mileages or days yet, but here's a route I'm tentatively considering, that works out to a loop, for the vehicle anyway. Take the boat up the lake to the landing, and either hike or shuttle up to Holden. Hike out of Holden, at least as far as Suiattle Pass, maybe farther along, but we'll see. Hike north on the PCT as far as the Stehekin Road/Cascade Road intersection, turn west and hike out towards Sahalee. Come back down, and either go to Stehekin, or hike further north and come around the McAlester Pass/Rainbow trail way down to the road. Finish in Stehekin and boat back to the car.

The PCT part sounds like it will be mostly forested, and not much on views, but I'm counting on good views from Suiattle Pass of Glacier, and great views further up in the North Cascades complex.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
2 week backpack trip in North Cascades on 05/01/2013 14:00:25 MDT Print View

A couple of items: First, check the Holden bus schedules; per reports from others, I understand they are limited this summer because of the mine mitigation.

Second, if you do nothing else, definitely take the short side trip from Suiattle Pass to Image Lake. Think Glacier Peak right in your face and reflected perfectly in the lake. Don't miss it! As I recall, you have to go a mile or so west of Suiattle Pass to get the good views of Glacier Peak anyway, so you may as well go on to the lake.

That is a long, long forested slog down Agnes Creek to Stehekin, but at least you have the bakery as a treat at the end of your trip.

Do also consider the Phelps Creek/Spider Meadow/Lyman Lakes/Image Lake/Buck Creek Pass route, though. It was my dream trip back in 1987 and I really want to do it again! At least this time I won't have to start with a 50-pound pack! You get there via US2, go towards Lake Wenatchee and then to the end of the Chiwawa River Road. You will see a lot more of Glacier Peak on that route.

Another possible side trip is north from Image Lake, over Miner's Ridge to Canyon Lake. Be warned that there are a LOT of PUDS (pointless ups and downs) in that five miles, though!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/01/2013 14:03:47 MDT.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Spider Meadows/Lyman Lake/Buck Creek on 05/02/2013 06:39:32 MDT Print View

Mary, I'm looking at the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated Glacier Wilderness Map, and I'm having trouble seeing this as a loop. The trail to Spider Meadows just ends near Spider Glacier. There's a trail that heads south around Lyman Lake, but it just seems to end. This area is right on the edge of this map, you have to flip from the north to the south side to see it. Is there a link through Spider Gap that I can't see?

pack nwcurt
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Spider Meadows/Lyman Lake/Buck Creek on 05/02/2013 07:39:44 MDT Print View

It's not a perfect loop. The end of the trail is about a 2 mile (I think?) road walk back to the Spider TH. ABSOLUTELY worth it - definitely don't let that little bit affect your decision. Google up some pictures of Lyman, Spider Meadow, Image Lake, Canyon Lake, etc. Stunning stuff!

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
Not really a trip report, but thanks! on 09/04/2013 23:40:13 MDT Print View

Hey, I just wanted to chime in and say thanks to everyone for encouraging me to hike the Lyman Lakes/Spider Gap area. We weren't able to do the whole loop, due to last minute time constraints. We did do a double overnight to Spider Meadow, staying in the meadow 1 night, hiking up over Spider Gap the second day, then coming back to Spider Meadow. The first night was Thursday night, and we had the whole meadow to ourselves! Gorgeous! We are ready to go back and do the whole loop someday, it is lovely territory. Thanks Mary D for suggesting it!