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jfr

Newbie visit to North Cascades NP this summer

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Hi! I'm from San Diego and I'm intending to spend a week to ten days backpacking this summer up in North Cascades NP with my wife. We were thinking of doing one of the popular loop hikes, but we're open to suggestions.

 

Now, I know this is mainly a climbing site, not a hiking site, so I'm posting here in newbie-ville to avoid being flamed. :) (I'm getting too old for serious rock climbing, but I still love the mountains, so backpacking is what I do these days.)

 

We usually spend a week closer to home in the High Sierra, but there isn't going to be much water this summer. We're hoping that you guys got a decent amount of snow/rain this season, but not too much!

 

Anyway, I've got a few questions that my forum searches didn't answer:

 

1) What is the peak time for mosquitoes and black flies? We were hoping to go in early August.

 

2) Has the winter been wetter or drier than usual for you? Should we hike further east (say the Pasayten Wilderness) to avoid wading in mud the whole time?

 

3) Which loop hike would you recommend? I was thinking about the a) Copper Ridge, b) Little/Big Beaver, or c) Devils Dome loop.

 

4) I read that you can't make permit reservations, so you take what you get when you show up. That's a bit scary after committing to a 20 hour drive, but I'm not overly worried as I expect that whatever trail we take will be beautiful. Should I be worried?

 

Thanks for any and all replies, and any info you can give me will be greatly appreciated. I promise to post a trip report (with photos) afterward!

 

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You should look into the Enchantments, its an amazingly beautiful location, and you could easily spend a few days (or longer, with a casual pace) on a loop. It's located west of Leavenworth. The Leavenworth Ranger Station issues lottery overnight permits daily at I think 7am; or you can attempt to purchase them in advance online.

 

Hope this starts you in the right direction.

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1. Typically last week of July and first week of August, but depends on elevation and which side of crest you are on. A head net isn't a bad thing to bring, but if you go high enough, and stay away from lake basins they typically aren't terrible.

 

2. Just about average up high, with below average snowpack down low. West side will be fine in early August on most trails.

 

3. All your choices will take a lot less than a week to ten days, even if you move somewhat slow- you could probably do two out of the three. Devil's Dome and Copper ridge will have better views, but permits for the latter can be hard to come by. Don't need permits for Devil's Dome. Beaver loop is more of a forest walk (though with beautiful old growth).

 

For a true week long trip I would highly recommend going up over Buck Creek Pass, over to Image Lake, and back over Cloudy Pass and Spider Gap. Would only entail a bit of road walking. Or walk the PCT north from Rainy Pass to Castle Pass, then west to Ross Lake and Desolation Peak. Catch a water taxi ride back to the highway and hitch back up to your car.

 

4. There is lots to see up here in the North Cascades (you don't have to be in NCNP), and on the trails outside of the park you don't need permits. If you are flexible, I wouldn't worry. Also, it isn't a bad idea to have an east side back up plan. The PCT option above is more on the east side, and I would also recommend Horseshoe Basin up on the far east side of the Pasayten.

 

You are picking the right time to come. The last week of July and the first week of August are the driest of the whole year. Looking forward to the trip report!

 

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Jason has pretty much given you the quality info, but I'll chime in on a couple of details.

 

Bugs: Unlike Oregon, where I grew up, it's darn near impossible to predict bug season up here. Bring protection and be prepared to deal with what you find - headnet, DEET, tent can all be worth their weight in gold at times. They can often be a non-issue too.

 

Permits: Very rarely an issue for any of the backpacking areas, aside from the Enchantments mentioned above. National Park has quotas that are seldom filled and most of the rest is unregulated.

 

BTW, the major Wildernesses (Glacier Pk, Pasayten and Alpine Lakes) all have backpacking as good or better than NCNP. Enjoy!

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Thanks a lot for the great info! Looks like a trip report will surely be forthcoming. :)

 

Dave: I'd never even heard of the Enchantments, so now I've got another option to research. Still, that "lottery" sounds dangerous when planning my main summer adventure; it's much like trying to get a Mt. Whitney permit down here in CA: Be sure to have a back-up plan.

 

Jason: I'm already liking your idea for the PCT northbound from Rainy Pass. Nice and high with great views. We've done many of the extreme southern sections of the PCT, so it's almost like visiting an old friend in their new home. As for the other idea, I'm having a hard time finding Buck Creek Pass, Image Lake, and Cloudy Pass, but I found Spider Gap (I think - by the Spider Glacier?). I'll have to find a more simple map of the Glacier Peak Wilderness than my current topo software.

 

Curt: You've made me happy with the info about the trail quotas not always being filled, and the bugs, well, they couldn't possibly be worse than what we experienced in Banff back in 2012, not that this fact makes me feel any better (they are why I'll never go back there again). Still, camping up high in a breezy spot is usually best for avoiding the little beasties.

 

13938075685_9e18b613a9_z.jpg

13 mosquitoes on a small section of my boot

 

Short video of Banff mosquitoes:

0532 Video of a very unhappy Vicki covered in mosquitoes on the Badger Pass Trail

 

 

 

Meanwhile, I have a couple more questions (answers often breed questions):

 

Will I need to carry bear cannisters? Do you have Grizzlies up there?

 

I saw on the PCT maps that there is a 21 mile section of the PCT that has seasonal water only (i.e. potentially waterless). Does that mean early-mid August? There's no way that we can hike 21 miles in one day. Seven per day is more like it, ten miles tops.

 

How does one get a water taxi ride? Do they travel along the shore all day long? That lake must be a madhouse of humanity in the summer. But it sure sounds like a first for the two of us on a hiking trip!

 

 

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You won't need a bear canister, but hanging your food is always a good idea. Grizzlies do venture into the north end of Ross Lake - rarely. Very few sightings. You might see a bear if you're lucky.

 

Ross Lake is not very crowded. This isn't California. Mostly canoes and such - few power boats, and those are usually small outboards. Call the Ross Lake Resort for water taxi information.

 

The Enchantments permit system is very restrictive. There are other beautiful granite areas in the Cascades, however, that require no permits.

 

The Cathedral Peak Loop in the Pasayten Wilderness is one. Scramble/walk up peaks include Cathedral, Amphitheater, Remmel, Windy... No glaciers, but a really scenic area and you can stay in the old Tungsten Mine cabin if you don't mind a few four legged roommates. Bring fishing gear if you're of a mind. You won't be disappointed. 5 days is cush for this trip, but the Wilderness is huge so you can branch out however you like - the area has an extensive trail system. This is the only area mentioned where you might see a moose. You'll certainly see plenty of sign they've been there.

 

In general, the bugs die way down after our first coldish storm in August. That's a matter of luck, really.

 

You'll need a Northwest Forest Pass for parking in all of these places except the Ross Lake Resort National Parks.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Buck Creek/Spider Gap Loop info on WTA.org: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/trip-reports/trip_report.2013-08-13.2260548157

 

Water taxi info: http://www.rosslakeresort.com/transportation.html

 

You need to arrange for a pick up in advance, or get lucky. I suggest the former, since the lake isn't as busy as you'd think.

 

I think on that far northern section of the PCT you may find water scarce after mid August, but a lot depends on the weather this spring and summer. I haven't walked that particular section late in the season so I don't know for sure. The Winthrop ranger station would be a good source of info.

 

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One thing we can probably all agree on is the Little/Big Beaver would be the least interesting trip, unless you absolutely love forest and lots of it.

 

 

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One thing we can probably all agree on is the Little/Big Beaver would be the least interesting trip, unless you absolutely love forest and lots of it.

 

Hey man, it's bad karma to belittle 2,000 year old cedars like that. Plus I'm taking that trip with my wife in June, so don't undermine my stoke dude.

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I'm with Tvash on this one. Minimal mountain views until the upper end of Little Beaver valley.

 

For a spectacular early-season forest walk, the Hoh is way more impressive. :battlecage:

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Hmmm. Maybe I'll consider the Hoh then. I've only been up the first few miles and I liked what I saw. I just have this weird mental thing about backtracking in general. Driving around town, walking through the grocery store, or backpacking, I'm programmed to go in loops.

:[]

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It's true, we're alpine snobs.

 

The best part of the Little/Big Beaver loop is a couple miles of large cedars at the middle/bottom of the Big Beaver. I found the Little Beaver to not be very interesting. On the loop, you won't get much in the way of mountain views unless you leave the trail and hike up above Beaver Pass. Of course in June, there often aren't much in the way of views on the west side anyway.

 

The Hoh is pretty cool, but mainly I liked going from lowland old growth to glaciers and back. If you never went up Olympus/snowdome, it probably wouldn't seem quite as interesting.

 

I've heard the Enchanted Valley is also quite a nice early season jaunt. Not sure if it has big trees, but the location is right for them.

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Thanks for the info, and since I've completely taken over the OP's thread, let me ask you:

 

Do you think it might be better to stick with an out and back on Big Beaver up to the pass, rather than making it a loop with Little Beaver, just for the sake of a loop? I have heard that Little Beaver wasn't too remarkable anyway.

 

I kind of want to save the full length Hoh for the inevitable climb of Olympus.

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The Hoh is cool.

 

Go on an adventure and hike the Bogachiel, if you like big trees you'll get amble opportunity to hug - and hump - hundreds of them. Guaranteed you'll be the only ones there. No shelters, though. It pops you up to the High Divide and then down the Solduc - very nice finish after so much wood gymnastics. Research divorce lawyers beforehand or better yet - convince your wife it was her idea.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love the forest. It's just that Little/Big offers

so

damn

much of it.

If you're not looking for mountain scenery, though...

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Here's a taste of what the Enchantments looked like in early August 2012:

 

523_.jpg

 

(This was taken from a relatively high and breezy spot.)

 

The Enchanted Valley area does have some large trees.

 

At the head of Enchanted Valley, about 2 miles beyond the Chalet... the largest known western hemlock stands near the trail, its status proclaimed by a sign. The tree is almost 9 feet in diameter, and other hemlocks in the vicinity are nearly as large.

 

There are big trees before you get to the valley, too.

Edited by .chad

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My 2 cents:

I love the enchantments and maybe I am spoiled having been up there half a dozen times, but I say head north. If you usually go to the Sierras, you will find the enchantments the closest thing Wa has to them. the north cascades might give you more variety. After all, Prusik Peak is our Incredible Hulk, only half the size.

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