North Cascades National Park

Cascade Pass Trail

The Cascade Pass Trail is a 3.7 mile (one way; 6 km) hike with spectacular views of peaks and glaciers. The trail climbs steadily 1800' (550 m) to the pass. Hikers may explore in several directions from the pass. The Cascade Pass Trail is also a popular starting point for climbing routes to Sahale, Boston, Mixup, and Magic Peaks, and the Ptarmigan Traverse into the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Always carry the "10 essentials". Be prepared for abrupt weather changes. Snow and ice may remain on high slopes well into mid-summer.

The Cascade River Road leaves State Route 20 at Marblemount and extends 23.1 miles (37 km) to the trailhead. Beginning in May 2000, it is necessary to have a Northwest Forest Pass to park along the Cascade River Road in North Cascades National Park. The gravel road becomes narrow and steep near the end. Drive carefully. Views from the parking area are breathtaking. Listen for the roar of falling ice from hanging glaciers on Johannesburg Mountain and the sound of water from the many falls which give the Cascades their name.

To The Pass
This well-graded trail can be hiked, round-trip, in about five hours. It switchbacks through cool forests for 3 miles (4.8 km), then traverses through meadows to the pass. As you reach the pass, you are following the footsteps of travelers from ancient times. Native Americans used this route as a passage through the rugged Cascades. In 1811, fur trader Alexander Ross explored this route. Later, prospectors with dreams of gold and silver came this way.

Further Explorations
Just to the east of the pass, Sahale Arm Trail veers upward another 2100' (640 m). In just under 2 miles (3 km) hikers reach Sahale Glacier camp at 7600' (2300 m). The views from here are splendid, but be cautious, know your limits. The trail crosses steep rock scree, and camping is at the toe of the glacier, on snow or bare rock.  Continuing east and downward on the Cascade Pass Trail, care must be used in crossing Doubtful Creek, especially during hot afternoons with heavy snow melt. Injuries and deaths have occured due to slips and falls at stream crossings and from attempts to short cut or follow old trails.

Horseshoe Basin
Before the Basin Creek Bridge, a 1.5 mile(2.4 km) side trail climbs in to Horseshoe Basin, a spectacular steep walled cirque with waterfalls, wildflowers, and an historic mining site. Inspired by the grandeur of this area, the Mazamas, a mountaineering and hiking club, made the first formal proposal for a National Park in the North Cascades in 1906.

To Stehekin Valley
From Cascade Pass, a 2600' (800 m) descent over 5.5 miles (8.9 km) brings the hiker to the Cottonwood camp on the Stehekin Valley Road. A shuttle bus operates along the road from the town of Stehekin to Glory Mountian, which is 2.7 miles down the valley from Cottonwood camp. Be sure to consult a current schedule when you arrive at a ranger station in the area (Marble-mount, Sedro-Woolley, Chelan or Stehekin). Reservations are strongly recommended on the National Park Service shuttle bus.

The Subalpine
Cascade Pass is in the subalpine life zone, a place of deep snows and brief summers. A show of yellow glacier lilies and other brightly flowered plants quickly follow melting snow. Look for mountain heather, a short, woody evergreen shrub with pink blooms. Although heather thrives in this harsh environment, its brittle stems easily succumb to careless steps.

Cascade Pass is the site of a major revegetation effort. Seeds and cuttings are collected here and nurtured in greenhouses. Later they are planted back to heal old scars. Please stay on designated trails!

Look and listen for marmots and pika on rock slopes. Deer, and sometimes black bear, may be seen in meadows. Please help the wildlife stay wild; do not feed them!! Ptarmigan chicks tag along behind their mothers across snow patches. Water pipits play in the glacial streams. Watch for hawks and golden eagles soaring overhead during autumn migration.

To protect the delicate subalpine environment, camping and fires are not allowed in the Cascade Pass area. Johannesburg Camp, with three sites, is located near the Cascade Pass parking area. Camping is also permitted at designated sites at Pelton Basin (two night limit), Sahale Glacier, Basin Creek and Cottonwood camps along the trail system. Composting toilets are available in summer at Cascade Pass, Pelton Basin, and Sahale Glacier.

Pets and firearms are prohibited
in National Parks. Fires are allowed in some low elevation camps where fire grates are provided. Be sure to stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360-873-4500 ext. 39) to pick up your permit, required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Rangers have maps and current information to assist you in planning a safe, fun trip. 




For Additional Information Contact:

North Cascades National Park
2105 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-9394
(360) 856-5700


For more information visit the National Park Service website