Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail
Cascade Pass is one of the most jaw-dropping locations you can reach on foot in North Cascades National Park. With towering peaks framing a meadow-clad saddle and glaciers and summits in the distance, it’s a world-class view. While many hikers come to the pass and then depart, this variation goes up Sahale Arm Trail to reach the summit of Sahale Mountain. It’s a difficult hike with heavy traffic.
Come prepared with poles, good boots, and lots of water for this trail.
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Route Description for Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail
Cascade Pass is sublime. Meadows, valleys, glaciers, mountains—it’s all here. With dreamy scenery, wildlife, and a sense of solitude even when shared with others, Cascade Pass is a must-do hike. Go a little further, taking Sahale Arm Trail to the summit of Sahale Mountain. This gives you a wonderful view over the pass, especially in autumn when the colors turn.
The road into the hike is pleasant in its own right. The unpaved portion of Cascade River Road is lined with huge old-growth trees and the parking lot is in the shadow of a huge peak. It’s already sure to be a good day!
The hike begins from the trailhead parking, and it begins with a bang. The first nearly 4.8 km are consistent switchbacks before the path finally evens out to a one-mile traverse that’s more level in nature. The trees will gradually thin out as you get closer to the pass. Hike over a couple of rockfields and make a couple more turns before arriving in Cascade Pass.
Admire the view over the ridge of Johannesburg Mountain, Magic Mountain, Mixup Peak, and Cache Glacier. Behind you, El Dorado Peak dominates the view. Look for marmots and pika or even larger characters, including bears. They don’t wander into the pass too often, but they often eat berries on Sahale Arm.
From the pass, it’s time to head up Sahale. Take the trail heading north (left), switchbacking up a steep incline. This area tends to be filled with marmots, so watch for fuzzy faces if you stop to catch your breath.
About three-quarters of a mile from the pass, the trail climbs over a small slope, giving you a direct view of Sahale Mountain and its glacier. Go left on the trail, enjoying a stretch of flat trail before turning right towards the mountain. You’ll be back on a steep trail here.
About a half of a mile further, the path flattens out again. Before long, you’ll be heading back uphill, eventually over loose scree. The trail doesn’t relent until you arrive at the glacier camp. The views from here are too good for words, extending beyond Cascade Pass to mounts Formidable, Spider, Buckner, Storm King, and Goode, the tallest mountain in the park.
You won’t want to leave, but when it’s time, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Cascade Pass is a 1,808 m mountain pass in the northern Cascades. This pass is where the Cascade River connects to the head of Lake Chelan, and it’s now a crossroads for hikers destined for many locations. Cascade Pass is reached on a 6.0 km hike from the west and serves as a starting point for mountaineering expeditions up Sahale Mountain and more. Cascade Pass used to be called Skagit Pass and was previously an important trading route for Native Americans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a pass to camp on Sahale?
You’ll need a park pass in addition to a free, first-come-first-served backcountry permit to camp here. Pick it up at the ranger station.
Are dogs allowed on the Cascade Pass Trail?
No, dogs are not allowed in North Cascades National Park, including this trail.
How high is Cascade Pass?
Cascade Pass is at 1,808 m. Sahale Mountain is 2,646 m.
Insider Hints for Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail
- Don’t forget your National Park Pass for this hike.
- Try going in the early morning or midweek for the quietest trail.
- Remember your free backcountry permit if you’re camping.
Getting to the Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail Trailhead
The trailhead for Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail is at the end of Cascade River Road.
Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail Elevation Graph
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Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail Reviews
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