Pack a thesaurus for this trip because the sight of Mt. Shuksan’s tumultuous, glaciated north face will have you groping for adjectives to replace “awwwe-some” or “un-bee-lievable.” Even from a distance you have to crane your neck to take in all of the massive peak.
This remote, unroaded section of North Cascades National Park brims with private pleasures for anyone willing to strap on a pack and exert themselves: thick forests, wildflower-filled avalanche chutes, alpine tarns, and streams that look like milk, thanks to the glacial runoff. For inspiring perspectives of Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, and the craggy Pickett Range, hike the Copper Ridge Trail to Copper Lake. From there, either retrace your steps (20 miles out and back), or press on and hook up with the Chilliwack River Trail for a moderately strenuous 34-mile loop.
A word of advice for early season hikers: Snow may linger into early August up here close to the Canadian border, so consider packing snowshoes. Backcountry permits are required for camping at established campsites along the ridge’s broad crest or the Chilliwack section and can be picked up (along with a $3 per night parking sticker) at the Glacier Information Center in Glacier, (360) 599-2714.
Where: About 130 miles north of Seattle on the outskirts of North Cascades National Park. Just past milepost 46 on WA 542 east, exit onto Forest Road 32, and drive 5 miles east to the trailhead at Hannegan Campground.
Maps: North Cascades National Park Complex, #223 ($9.95, Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643). 100 Hikes in the North Cascades National Park Region ($14.95, The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453) is an excellent guidebook.
Trail Info: North Cascades National Park, Wilderness Information Center, (360) 873-4590, ext. 39 or 34.