Day Hiking: North Cascades
by Craig Romano (The Mountaineers Books)
© Craig Romano/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.
It was a crystal clear day. Saw a couple marmots on the high meadow. The first mile or so is fairly level, with a few interesting rockfields from spring runoff that have to be crossed. Then the climb begins in earnest for the next mile or so in a typical NW deep forest environment, with a few peekaboo views of the cascades to the southeast. Levels out on a high meadow for a half mile plus, then climbs again to the lookout. Breathtaking views all the way once you get to the first meadow. Will return soon to do the railroad grade.
What a stunning hike. I could hardly make myself descend back to the car. Huckleberries everywhere, outrageous views of Cascade mountaintops, the Nooksack Valley and all the way to Boundary Bay. No wonder this trail is so very popular. Go midweek if you possibly can, but just go early if you have to go on a weekend.
A fairly strenuous trail so it's a good thing you can't see Park Butte from the trailhead or you would be discouraged at the get go.
You start climbing as soon as you leave the parking lot and you won't stop approaching the heavens until you arrive at the fire lookout on top. It's an easy climb as you pass through Schreiber Meadows. On this trip it was 85* and the black flies were relentless. They became less obnoxious as we gained altitude but we talked about returning in the fall when we can hike without insectual assult.
Views of Mt. Baker and hundreds of surrounding peaks are spectacular. The Railroad Grade Trail is clearly visible from higer elevations on this trail.
Some parts of the trail are very, very steep with lose rock. Patience will be rewarded.
A note of warning: we started the trail at 7:15 AM and came to a river crossing at 1.5 miles. We were able to hop across rocks as we ascended. Coming back at 4:30 PM was another story. The river had risen dramatically and we had to scramble to find a crossing. If you have dogs/kids, think twice about safety if you're going up early in the day. Again, ours was a hot day which I am sure impacted the glacier-fed river.
Trail guides here do not allow time for gazing at fields of wildflowers, exploring tarns, or experiencing an almost spiritual experience on top. Trust me - allow ten hours for this incredible experience.
Park Butte Trail #603 - The trail bridge over Rocky Creek was destroyed. Additionally, Rocky Creek moved about 100 yards to the west. A new bridge will be needed to cross this creek.
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