North Cascades National Park

Easy Pass Trail

Summary
Many believe the Easy Pass/Fisher Basin area to be one of the most superb places in the North Cascades. Extensive meadows are crowned by glacial peaks. This can be a steep 3.5 mile (one way; 5.6 km) day hike from State Route 20, or a leisurely several day backpack with an array of hiking and camping alternatives. The elevation gain from the trailhead to the pass is 2800' (850 m) -- this part of the hike is anything but easy!

Access
The Easy Pass Trailhead is off State Route 20 near milepost 151. Many hikers begin or end a longer 24 mile (39 km) trip from Colonial Creek Campground at milepost 130. The Northwest Forest Pass is required for trailhead parking at all National Forest and some National Park Service trailheads. The pass can be obtained at any ranger station.

Granite Creek to Easy Pass
Three hundred yards (270 m) from the trail start is a crossing of the cold, swift waters of Granite Creek. The "bridge" here is often just a log crossing, and is subject to washouts. Check at a ranger station for the current status. The trail is often wet from snow melt drainage. After 2 miles (3 km) of western hemlock and Pacific silver fir forests, the trail emerges into avalanche paths on the flanks of Ragged Ridge. The pass can be seen high above. The trail now climbs steeply, crossing Easy Pass Creek three times, traversing steep rock slopes and avalanche meadows. Look and listen for pika and hoary marmots. The trail can be lost in lingering snow fields. An ice axe is advised in early summer. The pass is gained at 6500' in 3.6 miles (1980 m in 5.8 km).

The Pass
Easy Pass is spectacular, separating Granite Creek Valley and the drier mountains to the east from the glacier-mantled peaks ringing the Fisher Creek drainage to the west. Scattered clumps of trees include subalpine larch, subalpine fir, mountain hemlock, and farther up the ridge, whitebark pine. The larch, a deciduous conifer which turns gold before losing its needles in the fall, is found only in the northern fringes of the United States and the eastern ridges of the North Cascades.

Fisher Basin
The trail into Fisher Basin is steep and scenic. Massive Mt. Logan looms ahead. Lush meadows bloom in pinks, reds, purples, whites, and yellows. Deer and smaller mammals abound. Black bear are often seen grazing in the meadows, eating huckleberries. Just prior to protection under the National Park Act in 1968, one of the last grizzly bears in the North Cascades was shot here. The Fisher name comes from the Fisher brothers who ran a trap line here in the early 1900s.

Fisher Creek Valley
Fisher Camp is at the edge of the meadows, 2 miles (3 km) beyond the pass. Leaving the meadows, the trail descends gently, entering a mature silver fir forest. Creekside Cosho Camp is in the deep forest, 6 miles (9.6 km) beyond the pass. This is an entirely different life zone, home to martin, owls and their prey, including flying squirrels, voles, and deer mice. Continuing down valley, the forest gradually changes to mid-elevation species of western redcedar, western hemlock and cottonwood in stream flats.

A mile from Junction Camp, an old trapper's cabin is semi-hidden just off the trail. Rock Cabin was built against a great rock, using the rock as one wall. This unique cabin has been stabilized by the National Park Service, and today serves as a reminder of the human history in this remote valley.

Junction Camp
Junction Camp is situated near Fisher Creek on the ridge overlooking Thunder Creek Valley. Views are good from this area, including a glimpse of Boston Glacier in the distance.

From Junction, the hiker has several options: return the 14 miles (23 km) to the Easy Pass trailhead; go down Thunder Creek Valley 10 miles (16 km) to Colonial Creek and State Route 20; or go up Thunder Creek 12 miles (19 km), over Park Creek Pass to the Stehekin Valley.

Permits/Information
Pets and firearms are prohibited in the National Park. Fires are allowed in some low elevation camps. Washington State fishing regulations apply. Be sure to stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360-873-4500 ext. 39). A permit (no charge) is 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