Updated April 2014
See also - Mountain Goats Drank my Pee
This chapter will open up a huge number of options in the central and northern Cascades via Highway 2 and Stevens Pass. Youʼll be able to reach the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness, Glacier Peak Wilderness, and even as far east as Lake Chelan - from which, by boat, you can reach North Cascades National Park.
Trail Option A: Skykomish
This is not one hike, but rather, a whole slew of them. A plethora of them. Youʼll be venturing into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness just south of the town of Skykomish. Most of them might qualify as “easy,” and, sure, you might run into Cub Scouts and Blue Birds (do they still even have Blue Birds?), but donʼt let them intimidate you (and I double-dare you to keep up with them). General rule of thumb: Blue Birds and such will always kick your ass, trailwise. Put it down to the irrepressible exuberance of youth. But the Alpine Lakes Wilderness contains more than enough lakes that surely youʼll be able to find one of your own to avoid undue continued humiliation.
Leave Northwestern Trailways (NWT) at the stop in Skykomish (making sure to ask your driver before you leave the bus precisely where the bus will stop heading the other way—for your return trip, to avoid nasty surprises. Remember: NWT now runs only once a day). Cross the bridge into town, have lunch, fill your water bottle. Hang a right at the end of town onto the Old Cascade Highway, walk 2 miles, then 8 miles up the Miller River Road (Rd. 6410, turning into 6412) to the trailhead. Itʼs about 2 miles to Lake Dorothy, and the trail continues on for several more lakes.
Alternatively, you could head east from Skykomish about 2 miles, hanging a right just past the Ranger Station onto the Foss River Road. Four miles from the Ranger Station will get you to the start of the East Fork Foss River Trail (with its own set of lakes). Two more miles will get you to the West Fork Trail. Thereʼs even a ridge trail to the east. You could even continue east, connect with the Pacific Crest Trail, and head north to Stevens Pass, where you can flag down NWT for your return trip (be certain youʼre familiar with NWT "flag stop" protocols).
The recently-established Wild Sky Wilderness has been in existence for about three years, and that existence is largely just on paper. Two trails within the Wilderness currently exist, though neither Green Trails nor USGS maps show them. Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest is now trying to figure out two things: 1) where to put additional trails, and 2) how to fund the establishing of those trails, once theyʼre decided upon. In the meanwhile, hereʼs what Iʼve been able to learn about the two extant trails:
BARCLAY LAKE. Debark NWT at the Skykomish stop. Backtracking, head back west along Highway 2 for eight miles, turning right onto FS Road 6024, follow it 4.5 miles to the trailhead. Expect company: itʼs only 2.2 miles, without much elevation gain, to Barclay Lake. A “less formal” trail exists to nearby Eagle Lake, and others. Those look like your best chances for quiet camping.
(Alternatively, you could have stayed with Community Transit (CT) 275 all the way to its eastern endpoint at Gold Bar, and walked east about the same distance to reach the same point. And for a lot less money....)
BECKLER PEAK. Debark NWT at Skykomish. Walk 4 miles east on Highway 2. Turn left onto FS Road 6066, follow it 6.5 miles to trailhead. Itʼs 6.5 steep miles to the peak. (This one presents a problem: itʼs too far for a day trip, but there donʼt appear to be any camping opportunities until several miles in, well past the peak. Perhaps as maps including this trail are published, solutions will be found.
(Already, I see that only one mile east of Skykomish, you could head up the Beckler River Road 65 and turn east at the first option, reaching FS Road 66, and follow that to the peak.)
Frankly, I donʼt think either of these two options are worth your time. Iʼd recommend waiting until the Wild Sky Wilderness is better developed.
NWT has a flag stop right at the crest of the Pass; signs pointing you toward the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) trailheads are visible right from the flag stop. Head north or south, for a day or three, or a week. Although there is no longer a transit connection to the south, at Snoqualmie Pass, a long but frequently-traveled seventy-five miles away, you could head north along the PCT, exiting from the Sauk River Road and making your way back to transit connections at Darrington.
For that matter, you could probably go south anyway, tell your tale of transit adventure along the way to others heading in the same direction, and eventually cadge a ride from the trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass back at least to North Bend (where you could grab King Countyʼs Metro Transit back to Seattle).
Always remember that in hitting up strangers out in the middle of nowhere for a ride you could end up in a shallow grave. We feel obliged to remind you of this.
Bus stop to trailhead: 4.5 miles
Bus stop to far trailhead: 13.5 miles
Loop trip, trailhead to trailhead: 19 miles
This is one of the premier destinations in the Washington Cascades, a difficult-to- attain, high basin that is one big non-stop photo-op of mountain goats, glacier-smoothed granite slabs, tiny lakes, and spire-like crags. The Enchantments Permit Area is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and administered by the Lake Wenatchee National Forest. From June 15 to October 15, access is controlled and limited by LWNF, which does so by means of a lottery-based reservation system (For full details go to the recreation.gov website ). But persevere, or visit just after the middle of October (but beware: the upper basin sits at about 8000 feet, and brutal Winter can descend with little or no notice).
NWT will drop you off at the Icicle QuikMart at the west end of Leavenworth. Within reservation season, you must walk the half-mile eastward to the LWNF Ranger Station to register. Outside of that season, you legally can simply head south on the Icicle Creek Road after you leave the NWT bus. But it is recommended that you check in with the ranger station anyway, if only for a weather update and current trail information.
The first trailhead listed at this sectionʼs beginning is Snow Creek, 4 miles up the Icicle Creek Road. The first campsite is about 2 miles uptrail.
The other trailhead for the Enchantments is up Mountaineer Creek (Trail 1599). To reach it, pass on by the Snow Creek turnoff and continue up Icicle Creek Road another 4 miles, all the way to the Bridge Creek Crossing. Cross the creek (quit whining—thereʼs a bridge already) and head up Road 7601. I know itʼs a helluva long walk, followed by a steep, badly-rutted gravel road, but itʼs well-traveled, and Iʼve almost always been offered a ride at least part of the way.
This latter trailhead is the preferred approach for the following reason: you gain all of your elevation all at once. But then you can cruise downhill, at your leisure, past all the breathtaking stuff. But first thereʼs a price to be paid.
Trail 1599.1 takes you to Colchuck Lake in about 5 grueling miles (if you managed a ride you may reach the lake before dark). Starting the next day, from the far side of the lake, you will gain 2300 feet in one mile. Plan on making a day of it. Itʼs ugly. And beautiful. Itʼs not a technical climb, but rather, just a cairn-hopping (you find one little human-built pile of rocks, then you look around for the next one and get to that one any way you can, then again, then again...), lung-busting marathon of a single mile of hell, particularly if youʼre traveling alone and packing a lot of gear. By the time you reach the top all youʼll want to do is crawl into your sleeping bag and sleep. And perhaps throw up, if you have anything left.
Oh, but then youʼll want to take pictures. From that point on, once
you get your wind back youʼll be in awe. Take extra film. Or whatever
it is you digital-type people use.
Exit via Snow Creek. Total distance, from Leavenworth, through the Enchantments and back to Leavenworth, would be about 36 miles, minus whatever rides you manage to get. Youʼll remember this one forever.
Sorry, folks—the Link Transit route making both these trips possible has been discontinued. Without it, itʼs a twenty-mile walk to the nearest trailhead. Iʼm going to leave these here in case they start it up again, and so I donʼt have to resequence all my maps.
And hereʼs one more option to ponder: TWICE, while Iʼve been on NWT heading toward Leavenworth, Iʼve watched people talk the bus driver into stopping and letting them off at Coleʼs Corner. Take a look at this on a map. From there, itʼs only about 5 miles to Lake Wenatchee, with a bunch of possibilities in the Entiat Mountain Range, and heading north into Glacier Peak Wilderness. It would make a great starting-off point for a long trip heading for Lake Chelan.
I thoroughly doubt youʼd be able to flag down NWT at Coleʼs Corner to return, but, apparently, leaving the bus there is an option. And I doubt any NWT driver would admit that theyʼve done so. But there it is.
Leave NWT at the Icicle QuikMart. Youʼll probably have time for lunch in Leavenworth. Catch Link Transit 22 on the hour, at 1:00 PM, heading east on Highway 2. Leave the bus at the junction with Highway 97, but before you leave the bus, have the driver point out the westbound stop to you. This is always a good thing to know precisely.
From the junction, walk 7 miles south, passing fruit orchards (and, in season, fruit stands!) to the Ingalls Creek Road. Itʼs a major truck route, so be very careful. Itʼs very hot in the summer. Take plenty of water. From there itʼs a mile to the trailhead. Eyes open for rattlesnakes.
Ingalls Creek is a long, easy-gradient river valley trail. Plenty of campsites along the trail. Your options include crossing the Creek (late in summer, when the water is low) for the trails there, or continuing upvalley to Stuart Pass and Ingalls Lake. You could even cross Stuart Pass, drop down Jack Creek on the other side, and end up exiting from the end of Icicle Creek Road.
Bus stop to trailhead: 3.5 miles
Reaching Leavenworth noonish, go find lunch. Catch LT 22 eastbound at 1:00, or 2:00. Leave the bus at the Entiat Park & Ride; your next bus, LT 26, doesnʼt leave there until 3:33 PM. This bus will take you up the road to Ardervoir by 4:00, plenty of time to walk the three-plus miles to the Pine Flat Campground and trailhead. Madness (or, at least, the Mad River...) lay beyond. And plenty of creeks, ridges, and meadows. Itʼs designated multiuse, so you may encounter bikes and/or motorcycles.
On the return leg (if you choose to return via the same trailhead) catch LT 26 at Ardenvoir at 10:45 AM, reaching the Euclid & Penny Transfer Station at 11:24. Catch the LT 22 at 12:12 (donʼt miss this!) and reaching the Icicle Creek QuikMart at 12:48 PM. Westbound NWT leaves there at 1:15. Hustle in and buy your ticket.
Reaching Lake Chelan offers you access, by way of the Lake of the Lake (LOL) tour boats, to Lucerne, entrance to Glacier Peak Wilderness via Holden Village, and to Stehekin, entrance to North Cascades National Park.
LOL currently has a slow boat (2014 prices: $36 roundtrip) and a fast boat ($61 roundtrip). They also offer a combo deal (slow boat going uplake, fast boat coming back) but that wonʼt work to your advantage. Hell, for that matter, you can hire a floatplane from Chelan to Stehekin for $79 each way, but if youʼre the sort of cheapskate that takes the bus everywhere thatʼd just be silly, wouldnʼt it.
This will be a bit more pricey than the other trips on this site for three reasons: 1) youʼve already taken NWT from Monroe to Leavenworth, 2) youʼll have the boat tickets, and 3) youʼll end up spending two nights in Chelan; on the way in, and on the way back out. But there are ways to make it cheaper.
Chelan is a rather pricey tourist town in the summer, and there are plenty of well- maintained and prominently-displayed signs advising against camping in the city parks. One option, after Labor Day, is that a few of the RV parks along the lakeshore will tent camping for a fee (ten years ago it was $30, and noisy, what with all those RV generators and yapping RV hounds).
Another option would be to camp at Lake Chelan State Park outside of town, which would entail opting off LT 21 just as it reaches the lake, walking the 5 miles west to the State Park, camping there among the potential rattlesnakes, walking the 5 miles back to the bus stop in the morning to catch another LT 21 into town (at least, in this case, youʼll already know exactly where the bus stop is...), making sure youʼve allowed time to reach the LOL office in time to buy your ticket. It really does sound like a pain in the ass, doesnʼt it? Not that I havenʼt done such things.
A far more reasonable option would be to find a cheap room for the night in Chelan. As mentioned above, Chelan can be an expensive place to be a tourist; itʼs possible to drop a couple hundred bucks a night for accommodations. Rule to remember: prices drop the further you get from the lakefront. I recommend Momʼs Motel (Fall 2010, $65 for the night) just up the hill, and behind the Apple Cup Restaurant (which I also emphatically recommend—itʼs where all the locals eat).
If you arrive in Chelan in time to buy your boat tickets on your first day, do so. LT 21 will pass right by the LOL office and dock —itʼs even marked on your bus schedule map, with a stop right outside). Walking to your accommodations for the night will allow you to determine how long it will take you to walk it in the morning.
Okay—enough about the medium of bus transfer points and motel rooms—why go to Chelan and Stehekin anyway? The boat trip is 55 miles long; there are roads along the lake for only the first 25 miles. Then not. Just mountains. Steep ones. Take binoculars for the occasional bear or mountain goat.
The boat makes a few stops, one is at Lucerne, just a dock in the middle of nowhere, but from which point the Lutheran retreat of Holden Village shuttles a couple of old school buses the steep 15 miles uphill, primarily for their own visitors to the village. Note than any vehicles you might see have necessarily been barged in along the lake. The people of Holden are nice enough to give anyone a ride on their buses for a very nominal fee. You can even catch a meal at the village for, again, a very small fee. Beyond the village lies the entrance to Glacier Peak Wilderness. You could enter there, and come back out at Stehekin. You could also continue on to Darrington, or Stevens Pass.
LOL makes another stop at Prince Creek, from which point you could walk the dozen or so miles the rest of the way to Stehekin. Or you could stay on the boat all the way to Stehekin, where youʼll register for your trip into North Cascades National Park (Stehekin itself sits outside of the Park, in Lake Chelan National Receation Area).
Grab a over-priced burger at the Landing; get your bearings. Four times a day in the peak summer months, the Park runs a bus shuttle from the Landing, all the way to High Bridge, saving you eleven miles of gravel road walking, if youʼre going in that direction. (As the current summer schedule runs, getting uplake on the LOL fast boat doesnʼt give you any advantage in terms of catching the shuttle: with the slow boat youʼll arrive at 12:30 PM, in plenty of time to register and grab a bite before grabbing the 2:00 shuttle to High Bridge.
But you donʼt have to take the shuttle: trails head directly eastward into the Park. Seriously—look at this area on a topo map—there is a veritable crapload of trails radiating out in almost all directions. Pick one. Pick a couple.
This is arguably the premier destination in the Washington Cascades: high, snow-covered peaks, glaciers, hanging valleys, huge trees, all sorts of wild critters await you (with the sincerest of intents, of course) (but not necessarily in your tent, though).
Snohomish Countyʼs Community Transit (CT) will carry you along Highway 2 as far east as Gold Bar, but about all you can do there is a day trip to Wallace Falls State Park, or walk another 6 miles east along the highway to the Index-Galena Road (and from there, another 15-18 miles up that road to reach trailheads in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness). This is beyond the interest level of most normal people. The Index-Galena Road will, in the foreseeable future, open up to further options: the recently-established Wild Sky Wilderness sits between the highway and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and so will offer more easily reached options.
In the meantime, youʼll likely want to travel further east. Opt off CT 270 or 275 in Monroe, at East Main Street and Highway 2. Your next bus will be Northwestern Trailways (NWT), a subsidiary of Greyhound. Your NWT ticket can be purchased online, or at The Mail Station, a business at 19916 Old Owen Road, just across the highway (wait for the light—this stretch of road is lethal to pedestrians). You will catch NWT on the highway side of The Grocery Outlet, just west of that intersection.
Between Monroe and Leavenworth, NWT makes just two stops: at the town of Skykomish, and at Stevens Pass. As points of pickup, these stops are listed by NWT as “on call,” which means they want advance notice. On your way in, when you buy your ticket, is ample notice. When coming back out of the woods, NWT wants acall on the morning of that day, at least. Remember: cell phone coverage may be spotty out there. Itʼd be easy enough to find a payphone in Skykomish (a gas station is generally a good bet); finding one at the Pass might not be so easy. If picking up NWT there, you may want to schedule that on your way in, if possible.
From the town of Skykomish, head south into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. From Stevens Pass, head north or south along the famed Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
If youʼre continuing on, opt off NWT at Leavenworth. NWT does continue on to Wenatchee and beyond, but Chelan Countyʼs Link Transit (LT) is a lot cheaper.
Without setting foot on another bus, you have several options heading up the Icicle Creek Road, including the Enchantments. If you are going further east, catch LT right there outside the Icicle QuikMart where NWT dropped you off. Or, as you have almost an hour until the next LT 22 comes along, you may want to find something to eat. If so, head east, and keep track of the time and the closest bus stop.
LT 22 will take you east as far as Wenatchee, transfers to other LT buses will take you to Chelan, from which journeys uplake via the Lady of the Lake tour boats can be undertaken.
SEATTLE to CHELAN (Monday through Saturday)
|Sound Transit 510 leaves||Seattle, 4th & Pike||@8:29 AM *||arr. Everett Station||@ 9:25 AM *|
|CT 275 lvs.||Everett Sta. Bay B4||@9:45 AM *||arr. Monroe 2nd & Kelsey||@10:15 AM *|
|NWT lvs.||2nd & Kelsey||@ 10:30 AM||arr. Leavenworth||@ 12:10 PM|
|LT 22 lvs.||Leavenworth QuikMart||@ 1:00 PM||arr. Euclid Ave. Transfer Sta.||@ 1:35 PM|
|LT 21 lvs.||Euclid Sta.||@1:42 (or 3:57) **||arr. Chelan City Hall||@ 2:28 PM (or 5:03 PM)|
* Times for Saturday will vary slightly. Check transit schedules carefully.
** If you miss than 1:42 bus, you may wish to continue on into downtown Wenatchee. You may find slightly more to do, and better lunch options. Continue on the LT 21 from Wenatcheeʼs Columbia Center transit station.
The weakest link in any transit chain, of course, is that which is present in the least quantity, usually the most rural, in this case Northwestern Trailways. (For years there have been two runs a day both ways, now thereʼs only one.) The westbound NWT passes Stevens Pass at 1:55 PM; it passes Skykomish at 2:15 PM.
Chelan Countyʼs Link Transit runs Monday through Saturday. It does not run at all on Sundays, so if youʼre east of Leavenworth youʼre not going anywhere ʻtil Monday.
And LT schedules are difficult to read: some of the runs are listed
as M through F, and other are M through S, and still others are S only
—YET THEYʼRE ALL ON THE SAME GRID SO READ THEIR SCHEDULES CAREFULLY.
(Though you still could, of course, take NWT on Sundays, but weʼre talkinʼ a lot more money!)
Chelan to Seattle (Monday through Saturday ONLY)
|LT 21 lvs.||Chelan City Hall||8:10AM (M-S), 8:50AM (M-F) *||arr. Wenatchee Columbia Sta.||@9:15 AM 9:55AM|
|LT 22 lvs.||Columbia Sta.||@ 12:00 N||arr. Icicle QuikMart||@12:48 PM|
|NWT lvs.||Icicle QuikMart||@ 1:15 PM||arr. Monroe 2nd & Kelsey||@2:50 PM|
|CT 270, 271, 275||2nd & Kelsey||frequently||arr. Everett Sta.||45 minutes later|
|Sound Transit 512 lvs.||Everett Sta. Bay C1||every 15 min.||arr. Seattle||75 minutes later|
* See! Thatʼs the kind of thing you have to be alert for in the Link Transit schedules
CAVEAT TRANSITOR! (Which means, for those of you who canʼt figure out bad Latin, that YOUʼRE ultimately responsible for checking that all of these transit connections are current and correct, and havenʼt been changed since the time of this posting.)
|Northwestern Trailways||$26 one way; $49 roundtrip|