Let Type A hikers have their monster mileage. If you’re more Type B–long lunch breaks, photo detours, early campsites–this 14.2-mile out-and-back is for you. The path meanders through lush, knee-high grasses and avalanche lilies and passes countless dreamy tent sites as it gains just 1,700 feet to the foot of a glacier. Late July has the best blooms. From the Phelps Creek trailhead (1), 2.5 hours east of Seattle, follow an old roadbed lined with salmonberry bushes (and dive-bombing hummingbirds), northeast. You’ll pass the Carne Mountain Trail in .2 mile (2) and enter the Glacier Peak Wilderness 2.3 miles later (3). The landscape quickly transitions from a rocky, fading roadbed to a dirt singletrack punching into the heart of a colorful, flower-filled meadow. About one mile later, rock-hop across Leroy Creek’s rushing waters (4) (drop your pack and head upstream 100 yards off-trail to see a hidden multi-tiered falls). Dry out in the next two miles, climbing steadily through pine forests and intermittent flower gardens. At mile 5.2 (5) you’ll reach the first of several idyllic campsites at the edge of wide, U-shaped Spider Meadow, at the foot of 7,646-foot Red Mountain. It’s one mile across the meadow to a couple more campsites. From here, the route ascends to higher meadows and crosses Phelps Creek (6).
Bear left at the next Y-junction (7) and scan for the last (and best) campsite on the route. It’s sheltered from wind, near water, and has a bald eagle’s view of sprawling Spider Meadow and craggy Seven Fingered Jack in the distance. Set up camp, then climb sharply to 7,100-foot Spider Gap. Just .6 mile beyond is the foot of Spider Glacier (8). A creek flows from its base and cascades here at your feet. Return the way you came, an all-downhill amble back to the trailhead.
Driving From Seattle, take I-405 nine miles north to WA 522 and go east 14 miles to US 2. It’s 72.4 miles east to WA 207. Turn left, and in 4.5 miles, turn right on Chiwawa Loop Rd. Go .4 mile to a left on NFD 62/Chiwawa River Rd. Drive 22 miles to Phelps Creek Trailhead Rd.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required year-round ($5/day, $30/year). (800) 270-7504, naturenw.org Gear up Der Sportsmann has maps, fuel, gear, and expert local knowledge: 837 Front St., Leavenworth, WA; (509) 548-5623, dersportsmann.com