This moderate dayhike in the North Cascades offers a visual feast of colors and dramatic landscapes. In 6.5 miles, you’ll hike past views of steep granite peaks that jut into the sky, golden larch (in fall), red and purple huckleberry brush backdropped by white and dark granite, and scenic alpine lakes.
Start at the Rainy Pass parking lot, and go counterclockwise on Trail #740 to Lake Ann. The trail climbs through forest to a trail junction near Lake Ann; stay right here, or bear left to visit Lake Ann. Just past this junction, the route travels above treeline for five-star views of Lake Ann and the peaks and ridges that encircle it. Larch lines the opposite walls of the bowl, and there is an abundance of huckleberry brush clinging to the slopes, creating a blast of color during fall. In the distance, you can see the top of Corteo Peak poking above the ridgeline.
Continue the steady climb to another trail junction that leads to Heather Pass. Stay straight on the trail and continue to a viewpoint. Looking back the direction you came, you’ll see Whistler Mountain, Cutthroat Peak, Lewis Lake at the base of Black Peak, and the small meadow on Heather Pass (highlighted by the red and gold of the fall colors).
From here, the trail traverses more high-country meadows that dot the top of the cirque to an unnamed saddle, which overlooks the eastern face of Corteo Peak and distant glacier covered peaks. Continue following the main ridgeline trail (several trails diverge along this stretch).
At mile 3.7, crest a 6,967-foot pass before following the zigzagging trail downhill. (Look to your right for Lyall Glacier, which sits at the foot of Frisco Mountain.) After crossing the grassy ridgeline, the path drops toward treeline and the spine of the ridge narrows considerably, giving you a sense of vertigo. Continue the switchback descent to the final junction at mile 6. Turn left to return to the trailhead.
-Mapped by David Tate