How To Hike The Cascade Pass

January 18, 2023

How To Hike The Cascade Pass

The Cascade Pass Trail

Known for its views of breath-taking peaks and glaciers, the Cascade Pass Trail is a 5,392-foot mountain pass over the Northern Cascade Range, east of Marblemount, Washington. The Cascade Pass Trail is the most popular day hike in the National Park providing the shortest and easiest access to the alpine environment.

History of the Cascades Pass

The Cascade Pass was originally a major route used by Native Americans for trading purposes. It’s also well known because, in 1811, fur trader Alexander Ross explored and crossed this trail.

Travelling to the Cascade Pass

The Cascades Pass trailhead is located at the very end of the Cascade River Road and can be accessed from Highway 20. The road is 23 miles long and the final 13 miles of dirt road take approximately one hour to drive down. The best time to visit and climb the Cascades Pass Trail is between the summer months from June through September.

The Cascade Pass Route

Taking an average of 3 hours and 23 minutes to complete, the Cascade Pass Trail is considered a moderately challenging hike. This 3.7-mile hike will take you up and around the Cascade forestry, through meadows and spectacular views of the North Cascade National Park. The Cascade Pass trail is a place of deep snow and brief summers which is why it’s recommended to tackle these trails in summertime. There is a steadily steep climb up the Cascade Pass, which connects hikers to other hiking paths. Whilst walking the trail, you may come across some wildlife including marmots and pikas on rock slopes, deer, and sometimes even black bears in the meadows. It’s important to not disrupt the wildlife in their natural habitat. If you come across a black bear, be sure to follow guidance on staying safe. For dog-owners, do be aware you can’t bring any pets onto the Cascade Trail.

Trails connecting with the Cascade Pass

Once you reach the Cascade Pass summit and begin to descend, look for a vertical signpost indicating a trail split that will direct you toward the Sahale Arm Trail if you fancy a longer expedition. This extended day hike continues on to the Sahale Arm Trail, which will take you a further 0.8 miles adding another 650 feet to your total ascent. By following the switchback route, along the Sahale Arm ridgeline, you will be towered by the incredible Sahale Mountains, with the Doubtful Lake sitting below.

Camping on the Cascade Pass

In order to camp, a backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays. Despite not being able to camp on the Cascade Pass, there are several campsites nearby to choose from: Pelton Basin, Sahale Glacier, Basin Creek, and Johannesburg. During busy periods, the Cascades Pass area can be difficult to obtain a permit for, due to being one of the park‘s most popular backcountry destinations for camping.

Important Notices

Before hiking the Cascade Pass Trail, there are a few important notices to take into consideration before taking the climb

  • Pets not allowed
  • Keep to the paths
  • Fires not allowed
  • Check the hike route for steep hiking sections
  • Check the weather conditions – wear the appropriate clothing

While hiking the Cascades Trail, listen for the falling ice from glaciers on the Johannesburg Mountain and the sound of waterfalls that give the Cascades their name.

Travel essentials

When planning to go on a hike, you will need to pack the essentials. Here is our checklist to ensure you are prepared for a great experience and are also safe while doing so.

  • Hiking backpack
  • Water bottle
  • Trekking poles
  • Sturdy hiking Boots
  • A fully charged phone with GPS – no one wants to get lost!
  • A first aid kit
  • SPF
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks
  • A head torch
  • Appropriate clothing
  • Map

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