Sahale Arm/Cascade Pass

Only have a day to see the North Cascades? Then, this should be at the top of your priority list. Hike to a base camp for climbers, at the base of Sahale Peak, in 5 ½ miles, and 3966ft of elevation gain, and marvel at the best view the North Cascades has to offer.

Start at the beginning of Cascade River Road, which starts at the town of Marblemount, and drive 23 miles to the end of the road and parking lot . As it enters the National Park, the road begins to narrow, and you see signs that indicate you are now travelling on a primitive road, one that narrows to one lane the closer you get to the end. Don’t let this deter you, for your eyes are in for a treat at the end! As you reach the parking lot, and leave the car, you will have to crane your neck to look up at in your face views of Cascade Peak, the Triplets, and Johannesburg Mountain, hulking masses of granite that block out the sky here, complete with hanging waterfalls that look like thin ribbons coursing down the steep faces, helping create the Cascade River below you. Tracing the mountain tops east, you will see the gap that is Cascade pass, a mere 3.35 miles from the parking lot. The trailhead begins on the side opposite the bathrooms, and begins switch backing up through the trees, helping to take some of the steepness out of the trail. It does this, with constant glimpses through the trees of the peaks first seen from the parking lot. The trail is well maintained here, and you will see many families on the trail during summer weekends, according to the park rangers, this is the most heavily visited trail in the NCNP. The switchbacks continue for 2.6 miles, and then the trail continues to follow the contour line steadily upward, with wide open views at the 2.75 mile mark. It continues through this open hillside until you reach Cascade Pass in 3.3 miles. From this vantage point at the pass, you can look southeast down the Stehekin River Valley, and up to more majestic peaks, like Magic Mountain and distant Glory Mountain. Many people stop here, to sit and have lunch and marvel at the views, but you will now turn left, and head up to the Sahale Arm, a rounded ridge that leads ever upward, to the base of the Sahale Glacier. At about 4.15 miles, you are now on top of the Arm, and the trail winds up and through small alpine meadows that in the right season, are filled with blooms. Gradually, as you continue to gain elevation, the way becomes rockier, and the views become bigger. All along now, on either side of the arm, you can look east and west down opposing valleys, and the mountains that surround them; it’s a picture takers paradise! Your goal still looms large above you, so continue following the arm up. For the last 300 yards, or so, the trail kind of peters out, and it becomes a scramble over jumbled granite, with cairns as your guide. It’s not exactly difficult, and your objective for the day is ahead of you, visible at the top of the granite heap. Finally, at 7600ft elevation, in 5.47 miles, you’ve reached the base camp for climbers, here at the base of Sahale Glacier. There are a couple round knobs here, with rock walls built up around them at the top to ward off the wind that blows, reminding one of castle towers. The views here are spectacular, and you can see the constant views of distant jagged peaks stacked up one after the other, like waves on the beach, stretching endlessly to the horizon. From this vantage point, you should be able to name Trapper Mt, Magic Mt, Mt Formidable, and distant Agnes Mt, and Gunsight Peak, for starters.Below you is pretty Doubtful lake, and the Stehekin river valley. To reach a place in so short a time, and see the rugged and seemingly endless mountain ranges is a spectacle unmatched here in the North Cascades.


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 17.4


Start to clear treeline

Location: 48.474714, -121.06307

06-AUG-11 2:56:03PM

Cascade Pass

Location: 48.467785, -121.059079

Base Camp

Location: 48.485239, -121.045175

Trailhead sign

Location: 48.47524, -121.075087

The sign with the mileage, although they didn’t match exactly what our GPS said…

Mt. Torment, and Forbidden Peak

Location: 48.475738, -121.076996

Mt. Torment is middle left, and peak just above granite wall is Forbidden Peak.

Cascade Peak, Johannesburg Mt.

Location: 48.48514, -121.046076

The mountain peaks look like islands in the clouds, shrouded in the morning fog.

Base camp, with hungry Marmot

Location: 48.485282, -121.044788

A marmot decides to make a meal out of someones sandals, left at base camp.

Trapper Mt. Agnes Mt. and Gunsight Peak

Location: 48.485154, -121.045132

Trapper Mt. is middle left, Agness mt is spire in the middle, and Gunsight Peak is the 3 needled peak right.

Sahale Mt.

Location: 48.485581, -121.045153

Climbers headed up Sahale Glacier, to Sahale Mt. Probably one of the guys that lost a sandal to the Marmot…

Trapper, Magic, and Formidable Mt’s.

Location: 48.485154, -121.045132

Trapper Mt, Magic Mt, and Mt Formidable above Doubtful Lake.

Sahale Arm Meadow views

Location: 48.478, -121.056161

Once the fog burned off, the pretty meadows of Sahale Arm now visible.

Magic Mt.

Location: 48.473533, -121.055882

Magic Mt

Cascade Pass

Location: 48.467729, -121.058908

Magic Mt. Towers over the Stehekin River Valley.