Cascade Pass Trail
Cascade Pass Trail is one of the classic North Cascades hikes. We love Cascade Pass for a relatively easy climb to subalpine grandeur. Mountains, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, and more make a hike to Cascade Pass pretty much unbeatable for the effort.
To get to the Cascade Pass trailhead, take Highway 20 east to milepost 106 from Marblemount, and cross the bridge onto Cascade River Road. Drive 37.0km to the end of the road. Because most of the road is unpaved, the drive takes nearly an hour from Marblemount. No pass required.
|When to do|
July - October
Yes, at Johannesburg Camp (near trailhead) and Sahale Glacier
Yes, at trailhead and at Cascade Pass
Out and back
Cascade Pass Trail
Cascade Pass Trail Description
Welcome to North Cascades National Park! After the long drive to the starting point of the Cascade Pass trail, the massive Johannesburg Mountain is a most welcoming sight. Its noisy glaciers can be heard from the parking lot. Not many trails begin from such a scenic setting, so snap a few photos before setting off for Cascade Pass.
The path enters the forest, climbing immediately via a series of more than 30 switchbacks. Although this may sound like a lot, you’ll be thankful for the relatively easy-moderate grade. Along the way, you’ll catch peek-a-boo mountain views of Johannesburg and Cascade Peak through the trees.
At 4.3km, the switchbacks end and the meadows begin. Leave the forest behind, trading it in for heather and huckleberry-strewn talus slopes. The grade eases, too, making this final 1.6km to Cascade Pass the most pleasant of the hike. Turn around for views northwest to the glaciated Eldorado Peak.
Upon reaching Cascade Pass at 6.0km, you’ll be rewarded with views deep into the Stehekin River valley. Magic Mountain and Pelton Peak appear near, while Glory Mountain and McGregor rise beyond.
Cascade Pass itself is a jumping-off point for bigger adventures, with one trail leading over 32.2km to Stehekin and another terminating at nearby Sahale Glacier. It is an additional 3.5km of steep hiking to the glacier from Cascade Pass, so start out early if you want to add Sahale Glacier to the hike to Cascade Pass.
A composting toilet is available via a short, signed side trail from Cascade Pass. Large, flat rocks provide plenty of seating. It can get especially crowded up here on summer weekends, so be prepared for crowds. Once you’ve had your fill of mountain majesty, leave Cascade Pass and hike back the way you came.
Hiking Trail Highlights
The distinctive, pointed, snow-capped Eldorado Peak rises from the North Cascades National Park like a beacon, conveying an almost Himalayan-like splendor. This beautiful peak is legendary among mountaineers, and was once dubbed ‘Queen of the Cascade River’ by climbing icon Fred Beckey. Towering 8868 feet above sea level, and culminating in an exhilarating snow ridge, this impressive natural monument is a bucket list destination for most keen climbers.
In fact, the summit of Eldorado Peak is not too challenging for most well-equipped climbers, and the rewards at the top are well worth the effort of the ascent. There are epic views in all directions, including those of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan to the north, and Glacier Peak in the opposite direction. The experience of summiting the peak along a knife-edge snow ridge is something mountaineers never forget! If you’re not a climber, Eldorado Peak can still be admired from afar, its distinctive peak forming an unmissable part of the landscape in the Cascades National Park.
Black bears frequent the Cascade Pass area. Never leave food unattended, and be bear aware!
Camping is available near the trailhead at Johannesburg Camp, and additionally at Sahale Glacier Camp. A free backcountry permit is required for camping and can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount.
Planning a very special hike with your partner? The picturesque Cascade Pass Trail is a great place to elope!
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