North Cascades National Park

3:08 p.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
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Next summer I would like to backpack in the North Cascades.  I would be hiking with a friend.  We usually go several days and cover around fifty miles.  I would appreciate advice regarding trails, trail heads, shuttles, safety concerns and general advice for hiking in that area.  Part of the appeal of the area is the remote aspect of the park and the amount of privacy people report.  

12:18 p.m. on December 9, 2012 (EST)
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Happy Feet,

You have selected a great place to hike.  Just be ready for rain in amounts you may have not experienced.  The best weather is July, Aug, early Sept.  Bring a pack cover, great rain wear, powerful stove, and a tarp for the common cooking area.  Keep an eye out for Sasquatch.

 

 

4:15 p.m. on December 9, 2012 (EST)
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Happy Feet,

Do you have any areas that you want to hike or trails that your looking at?

I live north of Seattle and have hikes some of this area, but it's a big area and there are many different access points and trails.  Knowing what your looking at, if anything, would be a big help. 

Wolf

6:23 p.m. on December 9, 2012 (EST)
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I do not know much about the area.  We would like to have the beautiful scenery.  If possible a loop hike over a point to point would be ideal.  If a point to point is the best option for scenic views we could pay for a shuttle if available.  Are there "can't miss" hikes that you can recommend?

Given that my friend lives in New Hampshire and I live in Oklahoma I do not think we will be able to hike washington State that often.  I guess we would somewhat like a "highlight hike."  We hiked Olympic Park two or three years.  It was spectacular.  I would certainly call Olympic Park a "highlight hike."

I have never been on a backpacking trip that I wished I would have stayed home.  I am pretty cetain that we will enjoy whereever we go.  I would hate to miss a great hike just because I failed to ask for advice.  Thanks.

9:07 a.m. on December 10, 2012 (EST)
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Happy Feet,

Here are two options but there are many more. 

1)  Dollar Watch Mountain

  • 47 miles
  • 3 to 5 days (or more)
  • 4800 starting elevation, 7679 Max elavation
  • Best time; Late June to Oct.
  • Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forest
  • This is actually on the east side of the Cascades so it is a dryer climate.

2)  White Pass / Kodak Peak

  • 29 + miles
  • 2 to 4 days
  • 2100 starting elevation, 6000 max elvation
  • Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest
  • "Some of the most specular high alpine country in Washington is found along this route"

These are two routes from a book called Loop Hikes Washington I know there are more routes and if you go point to point there are even more options. 

I would suggest that you check out a site called NWHikers.Net  This site is for hiking the PNW and there are lots of folks that will have more suggestions and advice on getting to and from the trail head.  I'm wolfman there too.

11:13 a.m. on December 10, 2012 (EST)
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Happy Feet,

You cannot go wrong in the N Cascades.  Look at some guide books to figure out distance, el gain, and special features.

Wolfman has outlined some dandy hikes above, but they are not really in the North Cascades.  I would consider going up by Newhalem and going north from there.

4:06 p.m. on December 10, 2012 (EST)
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The others are correct, but my preference would be further east, rather than up north of Newhalem. Of course, there is the PCT at Rainy Pass. You can go north or south. The reason I prefer places a bit further east, is the scenery improves(I think) particularly with views of Liberty Bell and the Early Winters Spires. As well, the vegetation is less dense, making xc route a bit easier. The east side of Ross Lake has some nice areas. I would also say that the best month really is September all the way to the end of the month. From Rainy Pass eastward, the larches will have turned in mid to late September and the area will rival the Enchantments for beauty and be less crowded. A nice route that takes a little bit of logistics, is to hike east to west, starting at Holden Village. It is necessary to take a boat up Chelan, and stopping at Lucerne. This route takes you up past Lyman Lake and the glacier there, and, of course, Image Lake which is very beautiful. Wherever you go, there are a number of routes and bushwhacks you can do in the alpine that would make a good loop.

10:53 a.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
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Erich,

I like your style.  I used to travel thru the North Cascades often heading over too the Methow Valley, but rarely camped there.  I spent a lot of time in the Enchantments, Stuart Peak, and Slate Peak.  I like Blewett Pass.  Drier is usually better.  The one place I have never been, and always wanted to go was the P--------.  Please don't tell anyone else what I am talking about.

1:57 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
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ppine, I never made it to the P-----, but always wanted to. I will tell of a really great hike out of Rainy Pass. Head west to Maple Pass, there is a beautiful old larch just near the summit. A bush whack through slide alder in the drainage below and a traverse will take you to Mt. Benzarino. Not a difficult climb, but I always like the name. On the eastside of Mt. B., there is a series of pot hole lakes on a series of shelves. Some are mere tarns, but a couple are big enough to call lakes. Blewett or Swauk Pass is good, but a large fire this summer blackened a lot of it, all the way down to the Yakima River. I've never hiked there, but ski there at least once or twice a season if the snow is deep enough. Just after the 1st, I'm heading to Mazama to ski for several days. Stuart and the Enchantments is a wonderful place. When I climbed, I did a few of the peaks there.

2:55 p.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
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Wolfman, ppine, Erich  Thanks for the information

What wildlife are we likely to encounter?

Are we required to have permits to backpack in the North Cascades?

What is the drive time to the park from Seattle?

1:57 a.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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Do you want to see where Jack Kerouac spent a summer as a fire lookout? Do you want to go the least visited National Park in the US? This is the place. It was really remote until the 1960's when the road was finished, which is only open about seven months of the year.

Permits are required, but don't cost a dime. Either the North Cascades, Chelan, or the mysterious P-----.

I figure four hours to get to Rainy Pass from Seattle. A couple of stops to buy jam and apples in the fall. Marblemount has at least two great eateries, both worth a stop.

Grizziles are there, but you won't see one unless you are lucky. I've seen lots of blackies, though. Marmots, Douglas and Red squirrels, Mule Deer are common. So are Camp Robbers in established campgrounds. Wolverine and cougars(the four legged ones) are around, but you will also not see one unless you are lucky. There was a wolf pack in the Twisp area, but it was killed off by some yahoos two years ago. There have been some sightings of survivors.

Winthrop, at the east end of Highway 20, was the inspiration for Owen Wister's "The Virginian".

Hart's Pass is the highest place you can drive to in Washington State. OK, not as high as Pike's Peak, but more remote.

I've been to some spectacular high places in NA, the Tetons, the Sierras, the Canadian Rockies. All are wonderful. The North Cascades are accessible and seldom visited. But I hesitate to let everyone know about them!

12:12 p.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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Erich,

It is fun to hear your posts.  People on the west side have only recently discovered the Methow.  I was there a lot in the 1970s.  People used to play craps on the pool tables at 3 Fingered Jack's during hunting season.  Now it is a fern and floral bar.

Hart's Pass would be a great place to start a hike to the north.

Thanks for not mentioning a certain sacred and rarely visited place, "up there."

Wildlife possibilities also include moose and elk, and nearly all of the members of the weasel family.

1:54 p.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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ppine, My first sojourns into the Methow were in the mid 70's, though I usually would just stay up in the crest area and not go much further east than Early Winters and Liberty Bell. Winthrop has certainly become much more touristy, but Twisp still has a more local flavor. One of my goals in the 80's was to ski from Winthrop to Newhalem, or wherever the snow ended. And Mt. Challenger in winter. It was one of the last big peaks up there that hadn't been climbed in winter, due to its remote location.

7:05 p.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
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Erich,

This is fun.  I was trying to find a way to ski across the North Cascades Hiway, roughly what you are describing in 1974.  I went across in February at night in a VW Beetle with studded snow tires during one of those years with little snow.  We stopped to take a leak near Rainy Pass, with horizontal snow and the wind at about 40.

I was coming back from a hunting trip in my brother's 1959 Chevy PU with 2wd one night.  We decided not to go all the way back to Winthrop for gas.  We ran out in Concrete and had to knock on some doors to get somebody to unlock a gas pump and pay an extra $10.

I used to go to school with guys at U of Wash that told stories on winter Mondays of the peaks that they climbed for the first time and gave names to over the weekend.

 

3:33 a.m. on December 13, 2012 (EST)
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At the UW, we probably knew some of the same folks. Mickey Shure, Nels Anderson, Mark Thornton, Paul Belch, Todd Bibler and Bob Phelps. Bob was a friend of Fred B's so part of the older group. I climbed a bit with Mark. Mickey and Nels were the ones primarily responsible for the climbing rock. Nels died on the Matterhorn. I think Mickey might be gone now. I lived down the street from Bob Phelps. He doesn't climb anymore, but walks everyday and still hikes. He invited me to Fred's B day celebration a couple of years ago, but I had to work so couldn't make it. Of course, Fred is a legend, in so many ways. Every time I climbed something, the guidebook would say, "First ascent by Fred and Helmy Beckey, 1940." I saw a great presentation once with Fred, describing his first ascent of Waddington. Just getting there was half the battle. He's still going strong, as crusty as ever, and still quite popular with the ladies. His book on the history of the NW is quite remarkable. Years ago, before he wrote it, I had heard that he had tons of notes he had taken over the years after talking to early explorers, trappers and prospectors, researching routes and such.

12:44 p.m. on December 13, 2012 (EST)
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I got interested in climbing but started to meet people with no fingers or toes, and lots of dead friends.  It cured me.  I planned to climb Rainier twice but got cancelled both times due to weather.  It was a smart thing to practice self-arrests and carry an ice axe and crampons for places like Dragontail Pass in the Enchanted Lakes Basin.

I went to school in forestry and quickly got tangled up in other things like hunting and backpacking.  The other trip that never happened was a reinactment of the Press Expedition going up the Elhwa R and crossing the Olympics. 

My family has been in WA since 1889, and they all have been outdoors people.  My grandfather lived in Kalama on the Columbia and his Dad used to go to the "mountain" meaning St Helen's every summer for two weeks in a wagon.  All 6 brothers went with their families.  My great grandfather Hite lost his leg in a mining accident at a young age in CO but still climbed the Quarternary volcanoes like St Helens with a wooden prosthetic leg.

Have you ever spent much time in the San Juan Islands?

 

3:28 p.m. on December 13, 2012 (EST)
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I have spent a good deal of time in the San Juans and the Gulf Islands, and on up into Desolation Sound. My mother lived at Roche Harbor for 15 years. I've sailed quite a bit, on my own boat and boats of others. Did Swiftsure Race. I have a book written about the Press Expedition. I met the author and he gave me a copy. As you probably know, the Elwha's two dams have now been removed, a historic event.

7:37 p.m. on December 13, 2012 (EST)
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You two are Hijacking the thread!  Way to go Keep it up I love the information and history.   Never had the desire to bag peaks, probably something to do with fear of heights :D, but I love to hear and read about it.

Happy Feet,  Here is a link to a thread on a different site that I posted to get some more ideas for your trip.

North Cascade Park Loop Hike Recommendations??

 

Wolfman

1:48 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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I saw that the thread was drifting. The North Cascades has a good amount of history, much of it fairly recent. My first crossing of the Holden Lyman Cascade Pass section, had the shacks at Miner's Ridge still extent. An avalanche many years ago wiped them out.

I also had contemplated as mountain bike ride from Hart's Pass, through Barron, back to Highway 20. I always wanted to see Barron, even more than Trinity, which i did visit. Holden in the 70's was pretty interesting.

10:25 a.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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Wolfman- Thanks!!!  I checked the link and also went to  OhRanger.com for more information.  We should be able to find a great hike. 

I have found the advice of fellow hikers to be very beneficial. 

12:55 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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I noticed a poster on the linked forum mentioned the Lyman Lake and Image lake route. I had mentioned it earlier, but can't say enough about it, though it is a one way. The same poster also recommended the Bailey Range Traverse. In the Olympics, but a classic route in the high country.

2:33 p.m. on December 14, 2012 (EST)
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Aplogies to all for the highjack.  It is not that often that I get to trade stories with people like Erich and others that have joined in.

A sea kayak trip in the San Juans is a grand adventure but requires some experience due to the tidal rips and currents.

My uncle used to live on a 35 foot sailboat in Seattle, and other boats for about 10 years.  I love the trip from Seattle to Roche Harbor.

Dad had a 42 foot powerboat that he motored to Roche, and we could fly there from the Kenmore Float plane dock 1 mile from his  house.  That was some fancy living.

The Gulf Islands are tough to beat.

Washington is underrated as a place to hike.  Even on the west side, but it takes some getting used to.  Adding a large tarp over the fire as a gathering place in wet weather makes a big difference.

I always preferred the east side, and formed the East Side Club at the U.  Our largest membership was only 3.

 

12:14 a.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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I grew up in the Cascades(Oregon) and now live about 50 miles from NCNP in sourthern BC.   You couldn't pick a more beautiful place to hike.  The Pacific Northwest is God's country.  NCNP won't disappoint.  If you are considering other areas nearby you may want to look at the Wonderland Trail which circumnavigates Mt. Rainier.  It's a hair under 100 miles.  The Olympic Peninsula is also breathtaking.

Be prepared for lots of precipitation, even in the summer.  The terrain is incredibly rugged and you are likely looking at a lot of elevation change.  Waterproof and highly breathable gear really shines here.  If you have some light or medium weight eVent or Neoshell outerwear, then it would be perfect for summer backpacking in the Cascades.  I've always preferred 8" hiking boots because I can't count how many times I have seen a rainstorm turn a trail into a temporary creek, but that's just preference really.  

If you go to North Cascades National Park you need to be BEAR AWARE.  It is actually Grizzly Bear country (little know fact).  With a $2 bear bell and proper food securement you shouldn't have to worry.  I have never carried bear spray, but it couldn't hurt.  Personally, I've never seen a grizzly bear in the wild(and hope to keep it that way).  From what I understand the Grizzly population is pretty low density that far south.  Black bears, on the other hand, are all over the place.  I see them on a regular basis.  They are nothing to worry about if you have a healthy respect for them.  In fact, they are oftentimes quite the cowards.  I see them running away a lot.  Last fall I had one walk onto the trail about 100 feet in front of me while I was trail running.  He stopped and just stared at me(obviously not afraid) so I just came to a halt and slowly started backing up.  He lost interest quickly and just went on his merry way.  Here's the link to the US Park Service's site on bear safety in North Cascades NP.  http://www.nps.gov/noca/naturescience/bear-safety.htm

2:06 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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I've canoed Ross Lake, and hiked all up and down the Cascades and Olympics. Outside of hiking from Government Meadows to Snoqualmie Pass, it is hard to go wrong. I bagged the PCT section from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass last summer. It isn't that tough, it is about 70 miles, and it connects with lots of other trails to shorten or lengthen it, including a 13 mile trim of not staying on the PCT to drop down west of Stevens Pass (making the total length 57 miles).. It is gorgeous!!! Lots of lakes and good water for most of the trail. Buses run on both passes to get to and from Seattle for about a hundred or so total per person. I took my time and did in nine days -- it was a vacation, and we loafed the last three days :).

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