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Hike to Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

  • Sep 15, 2012 · 7:00 AM
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Cascade Pass is one of my all time favorite hikes. The scenery is spectacular! We will stop off for dinner after the hike, so plan on this being an all day event. Because of the limited number of spots available, please do not RSVP "YES" unless you are 100% sure you can make the hike.

This is one of the most scenic, most accessible high-country romps in the North Cascades-and the only trailhead in the 684,000-acre North Cascades National Park that you can drive to. Mixed in with the throngs of Puget Sound hikers are folks from Munich, Tokyo, and Kalamazoo. And none of them return disappointed after frolicking among fields of flowers, peaks of ice, and boulders bearing basking marmots-some of the most outstanding alpine landscapes to be found anywhere in the world.

Long used by Native Americans, explorers, prospectors, and surveyors, this relatively low pass was a wise choice for passage through the North Cascades. And it was once considered by railroad and highway planners too. Thankfully it will remain trail, protected as wilderness within a national park. But despite its wilderness status, this special place needs your care. Stay on established trails, or when you choose to veer off keep your boots on snow and rock, not fragile heather and alpine vegetation.

The views are amazing before you even hit the trail. To the south, the fierce face of Johannesburg Mountain peers down at you as you lace up, periodically shedding shards of ice to the valley floor from its hanging glaciers. Stop staring and hit the trail-it gets better. The trail starts by switchbacking some thirty times on a forested rib to propel you high above the avalanche-debris-littered valley floor.

After climbing 1400 feet in the first 2 miles or so, the grade eases, making a long traverse toward the pass, breezing by meadows, talus, and the occasional lingering snowfield en route. Johannesburg's equally fierce neighbors introduce themselves: Cascade Peak, Mix-up Peak, and The Triplets. At 3.7 miles reach the heather parklands of Cascade Pass (elev. 5400 ft), a perfectly fine place to call it a day. But if the prospects of going higher and farther tempt you, carry on.

Locate the trail for Sahale Arm that takes off north just a short way east of the pass. Prepare to get down to business. Beat to the ground by climbers, the trail wastes no time, gaining about 800 feet in 1 rocky and steep mile. Reach a junction (elev. 6200 ft) with a trail heading right, bound for Doubtful Lake and losing all of that hard-earned elevation gain.

The trail left to Sahale Arm, however, is nothing but pure delight from this point. Follow the path upward through rolling meadow and alpine tundra while peeping pipits and whistling pigs (marmots) announce your arrival. Hike all the way to the toe of Sahale Glacier at 7200 feet (but not on it-that's for equipped climbers) or until snowfields block passage. You may have to overcome panorama paralysis, a condition known to stop hikers dead in their tracks when barraged by boundless beauty.

Don't fight it. Look north to 8484-foot Sahale Mountain's glistening glacier; south to the sheer vertical walls of Johannesburg and company clad in hanging glaciers; east down the lush Stehekin River valley, with McGregor Mountain standing proud and Doubtful Lake below; and west to Hidden Lake Peaks, Eldorado Peak, and Mount Torment.

Driving Directions:

From Marblemount head east on the Cascade River Road for 23 miles all the way to its end at the trailhead (elevation 3600 ft). You will follow the Cascade River the whole way; it takes nearly an hour on Cascade river road. The last half can be rutted and primitive depending on how much maintenance the road has received lately. Privy available.

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  • Sergiu G.

    I will arrive at 7:09 - hope you will wait for me also.

    September 15, 2012

  • Sergiu G.

    I forgot to look for the weekend schedule of the bus and I will arrive around 8:30 am only - so is anyone willing to pass near Overlake area or to take me from somewhere in between? (we can discuss more details via email or by phone)

    September 13, 2012

    • Anil

      Do you still need a ride?

      September 14, 2012

    • Sergiu G.

      Yep, but as I was unable to respond earlier... I will see what I can do :D

      September 15, 2012

  • Vivek

    Anybody? Last call. If I don't hear back from someone who can pick me up from queen anne, I'll have to change my RSVP to no :(

    September 14, 2012

  • Vivek

    Hi All,

    Sorry about the late notice, but I need a ride tomorrow. I live in Queen Anne and I'd be happy to pay for gas, snacks, etc. Besides, I am sure you'd want some company for the long drive to and from the Cascades :)

    September 14, 2012

  • Vince V.

    Looking for someone to go hike there tomorrow morning, I know the group is already full but maybe someone is interested in tagging along as the drive is 2h from downtown. I live in Lower Queen Anne and would be driving.

    September 14, 2012

    • Steve

      Hi Vince, Thanks. I've decided not to go, but got an email saying a spot is open so you should take it if it still is. Thanks for being open. Steve

      September 14, 2012

    • Vivek

      Hi Vince. I live in Queen Anne, too (top of the hill on Queen Anne Ave N). I'd like to car pool with you. I can pay for gas and some food. I'll also try to get on your profile and send you my number so we can coordinate.

      September 14, 2012

  • Michael

    Looking forward to an epic day of hiking with everyone tomorrow. See you in the morning! :-)

    1 · September 14, 2012

  • Leah

    Two of us are for sure meeting in the Kirkland area if anyone wants to carpool from there with us, lmk.

    September 14, 2012

  • Leah

    Yasmine, I live in the Bellevue area. If you cannot arrange a ride I will be happy to assist.

    September 14, 2012

  • Gaz

    I'd be up for doing this as another group if anyone is interested. Just to confirm, is it is this hike, correct? (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/sahale-arm)

    September 14, 2012

    • Steve

      this is the hike!

      September 14, 2012

    • Cheryl C

      Gaz, I'd love it is going to be a gorgeous weekend, but I am only today recovering from a back injury and don't dare risk it... :( happy trails!

      September 14, 2012

  • Gayle

    Just got a note of open space .
    Am I in?
    What about carpooling? I live in the Auburn/Fed Way area & can drive if needed.

    September 10, 2012

    • Steve

      Gayle, I am open to doing this separately...late notice by my weekend is open...hate to miss this weather.

      September 14, 2012

  • Cheryl C

    oops, somehow I thought I got on this hike....but it looks like I misread the notice...

    September 9, 2012

    • Steve

      Cheryl....I was thinking abut the Cascades...still interested?

      September 14, 2012

  • Steve

    anyone on the wait list want to go as another group?

    September 14, 2012

  • Leah

    All, I have approval to attend from our Host. I live in the South Bellevue area and would be interested in carpooling to the carpool space in Lynnwood. I make an excellent passenger and am willing to pitch in for gas and/or buy you a beer :). Willing to drive, just prefer not to. LMk?

    September 14, 2012

  • pranav

    @heather would you be driving? I can meet you at the P&R would like to catch a ride if possible?

    September 14, 2012

  • Jason

    Would prefer to carpool with others, but can drive if needed. Coming from Ballard.

    September 13, 2012

  • pranav

    I do not have a car so I wanted to check if there is a possibility of catching a ride with anyone. I live in downtown seattle(6th & pine) but can meetup somewhere in the city.

    September 13, 2012

  • Sev

    Driving up friday night and starting hike earlier than you all. Dropping out in 1 min. Will see you somewhere on the trail.

    September 13, 2012

  • Heather

    I'm coming from lower queen Anne - anyone meeting at 65th park and ride?

    September 13, 2012

  • Tara M

    Masawee, it's 12 miles, 3600' - http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/sahale-arm.

    September 12, 2012

  • Masawee

    Hi all! Does anyone know how many total miles and/or elevation gain this hike is?

    September 11, 2012

  • David

    Hi everyone! I'm also interested in carpooling from Seattle. I live Wallingford but can travel within the city to wherever is convenient for pick up. Thanks!

    September 11, 2012

  • Cheryl C

    I'll be coming from the north, can I meet someone at the Ranger Station in Sedro Woolley to carpool?

    September 9, 2012

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