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The North Cascades’ rough and remote reputation keeps even the hint of crowds away, making it a cinch to score big-ticket solitude and scenery even on a short schedule. Here’s your plan, says Wilderness Ranger Rosemary Seifried. Beeline to the easier-access South Unit for this 25-mile highlight reel that weaves past electric wildflower displays in July, climbs to an airy, 6,525-foot alpine pass, and tracks through giant western hemlock and Douglas fir.
Drop a car at the Thunder Creek trailhead before starting at the Easy Pass trailhead (20 minutes southeast of Ross Dam). The trail zigzags along its namesake creek, then scales the eastern flanks of Ragged Ridge, gaining nearly 3,000 feet of elevation to the misleadingly named Easy Pass. At the top, pause for front-row views of Mt. Logan’s glaciated slopes framed by stands of subalpine larch (golden in fall).
Next, descend roughly 30 switchbacks into Fisher Creek Basin—home to black bears and the occasional moose. Just past Fisher Camp, the route dips back into forest on the 11.3-mile stretch to Junction Camp. The next day, descend 10.2 miles north through Thunder Creek Valley to your shuttle car.
PERMIT: Overnight camping in North Cascades National Park requires a free backcountry permit. Get more trip planning details at nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/wilderness-trip-planner.htm.
MORE INFO: North Cascades National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/noca.
TO TRAILHEAD: Easy Pass trailhead/start: From Marblemount, go 46 miles east on WA 20. Trailhead parking is on the right-hand side.
Thunder Creek trailhead/end: From Marblemount, go 25 miles east on WA 20. Trailhead parking is on the right-hand side.
- Distance: 37.8
Location: 48.588205, -120.803068
East Pass trailhead: Hike south, then southwest.
Location: 48.585777, -120.804784
Start switchback climb along Easy Creek, which ascends the eastern flanks of Ragged Ridge. Prepare to gain nearly 3,000 feet of elevation to the misleadingly named Easy Pass.
Location: 48.573604, -120.823007
Trail leaves forest. Continue climbing to Easy Pass.
Location: 48.572007, -120.843451
Easy Pass: At the top, pause for front-row views of Mt. Logan’s glaciated slopes framed by stands of subalpine larch (golden in fall). Next, descend roughly 30 switchbacks into Fisher Creek Basin—home to black bears and the occasional moose.
Location: 48.567989, -120.853499
End of switchback descent. From here, the route turns west and follows Fisher Creek. Fisher Camp is located in this basin.
Location: 48.565958, -120.872322
The trail re-enters the forest.
Location: 48.562579, -120.908897
Location: 48.574364, -120.987303
Cross Logan Creek.
Location: 48.578226, -120.997818
Location: 48.584806, -121.018466
Continue straight at 3-way. Junction Camp is located at this intersection with Thunder Creek Trail.
Location: 48.67165, -121.068609
Continue straight at 3-way.
Location: 48.673573, -121.072203
Turn left and cross footbridge over Thunder Creek.
Location: 48.684416, -121.092081
Bear left at Y-junction.
Location: 48.688556, -121.096362
Route ends at Thunder Creek trailhead and parking area. Shuttle back to the Easy Pass trailhead.