Guidebook

North Cascades NP: Most Rugged Mountains in the Lower 48

The North Cascades National Park is home to some of the most rugged mountains in the Lower 48, and is home to more glaciers than any other national park outside of Alaska!

Greg Heil

Description

North Cascades National Park is home to some of the most rugged mountains in the Lower 48 states! The park is known for "jagged peaks, deep forested valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers — more than any other U.S. park outside of Alaska," according to NationalParks.org. Most of this majestic beauty is protected by a massive 500,000-acre wilderness area, meaning you'll have to set out on your own two feet if you want to experience it.

This guidebook rounds up seven of the most beautiful hikes in all of North Cascades National Park. The highlight is undoubtedly the Cascade Pass Trail, which provides an otherworldly 15-mile point-to-point hike down a stunning mountain valley! An alternative to the long distance point-to-point is to hike an out-and-back hike to the Sahale Arm of the Sahale Glacier, high on the side of (you guessed it) Sahale Mountain.

For an even lengthier point-to-point backpacking route, Fisher Creek to Thunder Creek via Easy Pass covers almost 23 miles of alpine trails... but it's anything but easy. Stepping up from there, the Copper Ridge Loop covers over 35 miles!

Three shorter, more achievable routes that still provide epic views are the Chain Lakes Loop, Maple Pass Loop, and Thornton Lakes. While some hikers choose to turn Thornton Lakes into a backpacking trip, it is still manageable as a stiff day hike.

These seven stunning hikes provide some of the best mountain views in the Lower 48, and they're still just the crème de la crème of the hiking in the North Cascades National Park. Dig even deeper, and you'll uncover a treasure trove of hidden gems!

Sources:
EarthTrekkers.com
NationalParks.org
PlanetWare.com

Cascade Pass Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Cascade Pass Trail

5 - 6 hrs
24.5 km
682 m
1,140 m
The full Cascade Pass Trail in all its glory!
Difficult
Private
Thornton Lakes
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Thornton Lakes

5 - 6 hrs
14.6 km
1,066 m
1,066 m
Fantastic backcountry campsites await at the stunningly-beautiful Thornton Lakes.
Difficult
Private
Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

6 - 7 hrs
17.6 km
1,232 m
1,231 m
The best trail in North Cascades for a day hike into the alpine, making a determined ascent to stand eye-level glaciers.
Difficult
Private
Easy Pass to Colonial Creek
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Easy Pass to Colonial Creek

1 day +
35.9 km
1,252 m
2,009 m
A not-so-easy hike to Easy Pass, then an extended trek through deep wilderness of the North Cascades.
Difficult
Private
Copper Ridge Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Copper Ridge Loop

1 day +
51.6 km
3,063 m
3,063 m
A one or two-night trek, through a deep river valley and along a soaring ridge, with views stretching across peaks of the North Cascades.
Difficult
Private
Chain Lakes Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Chain Lakes Loop

3 - 4 hrs
9.9 km
550 m
546 m
A popular hike with amazing views every step of the way, around alpine lakes reflecting soaring cliffs and snow-capped summits.
Moderate
Private
Maple Pass Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Maple Pass Loop

4 - 5 hrs
12.2 km
688 m
687 m
Walk a high ridgeline among wildflowers and larch trees, encircling an alpine lake with mountain views in all directions.
Difficult
Private