Q: Help! What one hike should we do in North Cascades National Park?
– Brian Schmidt, @BWandering
If I had only one day to hike in North Cascades National Park, I’d make it count. Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm is considered by many to be the most spectacular day hike in Washington state, and all the superlatives about it are true. It is stunning, start to finish. Black bear sightings are common, and other creatures you might encounter include marmots, pikas, mountain goats and perhaps even the elusive white-tailed ptarmigan, a grouse-like bird that lives in high elevations. Wildflowers are abundant. The peaks are craggy, and the glaciers are so close you can almost touch them.
At 11 miles round-trip and 3,000 feet elevation gain, you need an early start and a full day to hike this gorgeous trail. With enough time, you can literally stop and smell the wildflowers! If you don’t have that kind of time, however, just turn around at Cascade Pass, making a hike that is 7.5 miles round-trip and 1,800 feet elevation gain.
Check recent Washington Trails Association trip reports from other hikers who have been on the Cascade Pass trail. These not only give you an idea of conditions (like lingering snow and downed trees) but you’ll also learn what wildflowers are in bloom, how bad the bugs are and what wildlife have been spotted on the trail.
To reach the Cascade Pass trailhead, take the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) east to the town of Marblemount, cross the Skagit River, then head east on the Cascade River Road for 23.5 miles all the way to its end at the trailhead. The Cascade River Road is primitive in places and the 23-mile drive will take you about an hour.
Looking for a base camp in North Cascades National Park? Camp at Colonial Creek Campground.
Hope this helps! Happy Hiking!
P.S. For more awesome day hikes in the North Cascades region, I highly recommend the book Day Hiking North Cascades by Craig Romano, published by The Mountaineers Books.
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