Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp
Cascade Pass is one of the most awe-inspiring spots in North Cascades National Park. With towering peaks framing a saddle of meadow with incredible sightlines, this is one of the best destinations you can reach by foot in the area. It’s a big hike, with this stretch of trail to Cottonwood Camp clocking in at just over 25.0 km with over 1,400 m of elevation gain. This trail is moderately trafficked by both hikers and backpackers and should be at the top of your list in the park.
Come prepared with poles, good boots, and lots of water for this hike.
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Route Description for Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp
Cascade Pass might not be the easiest place to reach, but it’s well worth every step. Meadows, valleys, glaciers, mountains- it’s all here. This trail can be completed by most fit hikers at least in part. The entire route to Cottonwood Camp is longer and good for backpackers, but newer hikers may just want to climb to the pass… and then never leave. With dreamy scenery, wildlife, and a sense of solitude even when shared with others, Cascade Pass is a must-do hike whether you go the full distance to camp or just to the pass.
Pay attention to where you are before you even start hiking. 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 trail begins from the trailhead parking, and it begins with a bang. The first nearly 4.8 km are pure switchbacks before the path finally evens out to a one-mile traverse to a small bowl. The trees thin out as the pass draws nearer. Hike over a couple of rockfields and make three more turns before arriving in Cascade Pass.
Gaze 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, but resist the urge to feed any little furry friends. Some hikers have seen larger characters, including bears, but they’re less likely to wander into the busy pass.
Many day hikers turn around here after soaking up the views, but those headed to Cottonwood Camp will need to continue on. Continuing from the pass means you’ll leave most of the crowds behind, which is a nice plus to a longer trek.
Hike along the saddle past Basin Creek, following the valley to cottonwood at the end. It’s mostly flat and level from the pass to the camp, so enjoy the walk, which is gorgeous.
From the camp, there are more route extensions available for backpackers. Day hikers will likely want to begin their return journey to make it back to the parking lot before dark. Simply retrace your steps.
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. The 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
How long is Cascade Pass Trail?
The pass is 6.0 km from the trailhead.
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.
Insider Hints for Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp
- Don’t forget your National Park Pass for this hike.
- Try going in the early morning or midweek for the quietest trail.
- This trail can be used to plan excellent longer backpacking trips.
Getting to the Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp Trailhead
The trailhead for Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp is at the end of Cascade River Road.
Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp Elevation Graph
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Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp Reviews
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