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Washington’s Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness

You'll find North Cascades beauty minus the rain in Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.

QUICK TAKE: Lake Chelan-Sawtooth, WA

DRIVE TIME: The wilderness is 200 miles (4 hours) east of Seattle and 150 miles (3 hours) west of Spokane.

THE WAY: Follow WA 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, into the town of Twisp, where you turn right onto Twisp River Road (across from the Chevron station). Just past War Creek Campground, which is on the left side of the road, turn left onto War Creek (Road 4430) to cross the Twisp River. Once across the bridge, turn left onto FR 4420 for 1/4 mile, then right on FR 080 until the dead end at Eagle Creek trailhead.

TRAILS: The Eagle Creek/Oval Lakes loop is just 21 of the 160 total miles of trail within the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.

ELEVATION: The trailhead is at 3,000 feet, Oval Pass at 7,700 feet is the high point. Total elevation gain for the loop: 5,400 feet.

CAN’T MISS: The Oval lakes are alpine beauties, each occupying a niche beneath rugged cliffs along the north face of Sawtooth Ridge.

CROWD CONTROL: Summer can be crowded and buggy. Autumn, when the Western larch and aspen are golden yellow and the crowds are elsewhere, is the best time to go.

MAPS AND GUIDES: USGS Oval Peak 7.5-minute topographic map covers the Eagle Creek-Oval Lakes loop. Green Trails (206-546-6277) sells a 15-minute topographic map to the area, Buttermilk Butte (#83) for $3.30. Eagle Creek and numerous other hikes are detailed in 100 Hikes in Washington’s North Cascades National Park Region ($14.95, The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453).

PIT STOP: The Cinnamon Twisp Bakery in Twisp shouldn’t be missed. In the nearby Western theme town of Winthrop, the Duck Brand located on the main drag is an excellent place to wet your whistle or get a meal.

WALK SOFTLY: West Oval Lake has felt heavy impact over the years and a revegetation project is hampered by continued high use. Middle Oval Lake makes a nice alternative.

MORE INFORMATION: Methow Valley Ranger District, Okanogan National Forest, P.O. Box 188, Twisp, WA 98856; (509) 997-2131. An overnight trailhead parking permit is required April 15 to November 15.

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