Anyone here familiar with North Cascades NP?

OwenM

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Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
277
This is a potential destination for me in early September, instead of the Uintas.
It may well get put off 'til next year, but I'd appreciate any feedback.
The Uintas aren't looking good, simply due to the rental car situation. The prices from SLC are insane(currently $1230 vs. $609 for the same car and dates in Seattle).
The heat wave, which briefly waned in WA, appears to have made a comeback, with temps in the Stehekin area hitting high 90s, and greater than 100F later this week. Temps appear to be much lower just to the northwest of there, but one of the two loops I'd like to do dips right close to Stehekin(Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop). If this continues for another couple of weeks, it'll be outside my trip planning window.

Whenever it actually happens, I need easily accessible loops off SR20, so the current plan is:
-Devil's Dome Loop via East Bank on SR20 at 40.4 miles
-Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop via SR20 at 31.5 miles.
Any comments on those are welcome, but I will not likely have much extra time to entertain dayhikes or other overnight options, as these are listed as 4 and 4-5 day loops, respectively, and I'll just have 7 days/6 nights.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to hear about lesser known alternatives, though!

I'm mostly wanting to know how many people there really are in September.
The NP itself officially shows very little visitation, but the nearby recreational areas sport some huge numbers. The NPS site's "Backpackpacking Loops" section also warns of sites on one of the other loops(Copper Ridge) filling quickly.
Am I really going to have solitude in this "seldom visited" NP, or is the reality something very different?
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
475
I can't advise about how many people will be there in September, but we loved the Copper Ridge loop in summer 2016. Great variety of scenery!
 
Joined
May 3, 2018
Messages
269
@NorthwestWanderer has some experience in that area, I think. I haven't seen him around here much recently but maybe he'll check in.

I still lurk and read trip reports! Haven't had the time too much lately to post here as I got a new job and moved out of Washington state to Missoula Montana. Still not fully settled in the new apartment.


This is a potential destination for me in early September, instead of the Uintas.
It may well get put off 'til next year, but I'd appreciate any feedback.
The Uintas aren't looking good, simply due to the rental car situation. The prices from SLC are insane(currently $1230 vs. $609 for the same car and dates in Seattle).
The heat wave, which briefly waned in WA, appears to have made a comeback, with temps in the Stehekin area hitting high 90s, and greater than 100F later this week. Temps appear to be much lower just to the northwest of there, but one of the two loops I'd like to do dips right close to Stehekin(Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop). If this continues for another couple of weeks, it'll be outside my trip planning window.

Whenever it actually happens, I need easily accessible loops off SR20, so the current plan is:
-Devil's Dome Loop via East Bank on SR20 at 40.4 miles
-Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop via SR20 at 31.5 miles.
Any comments on those are welcome, but I will not likely have much extra time to entertain dayhikes or other overnight options, as these are listed as 4 and 4-5 day loops, respectively, and I'll just have 7 days/6 nights.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to hear about lesser known alternatives, though!

I'm mostly wanting to know how many people there really are in September.
The NP itself officially shows very little visitation, but the nearby recreational areas sport some huge numbers. The NPS site's "Backpackpacking Loops" section also warns of sites on one of the other loops(Copper Ridge) filling quickly.
Am I really going to have solitude in this "seldom visited" NP, or is the reality something very different?

I've got lots of experience with the North Cascades, I lived nearby for 6 years and backpacked every weekend as well as many week long trips. So maybe I can help.

DEVILS DOME AND RANBOW MCALESTER (Pasayten / Chelan-Sawtooth)

Devils Dome and Rainbow McAlester in the wilderness areas are OK loops, they are somewhat busy but they will be somewhat of a disappointment scenery wise compared to the Uintas. 90% of your hike will be under trees if not more. Washington scenic hiking is not friendly to the map goer as the cascades require a lot of research compared to the ultra-scenic rockies where most of every trail has views. The cascades have some of the prettiest places in the world but a lot of it is DESTINATION. So the DESTINATION of the hike is very scenic but the journey is just under tree cover / nothing special.

ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION: You will run into 3-5 groups probably during the week (M-F), if within 10 miles of a Trail head on the weekend you will see ~20 people.

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK
The trails in North Cascades National Park are pretty garbage (not in condition but in scenery), Copper Ridge is alright it's like an extreme discounted Glacier national park. Where North Cascades National Park really shines is off trail mountaineering as it has the best alpine mountaineering in the lower 48 states. Period. But they aren't relaxing trips and have lots of exposure/equipment usage needed. The lower elevation is deceiving, it is ultra tiring. Most days will be a minimum 4000 feet of elevation gain.

ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION: YOU WILL NOT HAVE SOLITUDE, the reason it's "Seldom visited" is there is no entrance gate/fee. They only track backpackers registering backcountry permits (only half of the people do in my experience), there are tons of unregistered campers who aren't enforced and lots of day hikers and ultra runners (very popular in WA). NCNP is cut in half by Hwy20, if there was an entrance gate on Hwy20 NCNP be close to the top 20 most visited national parks.

The cascades are busy year round 108000 people move to washington each year and they all seem to love the outdoors. Late September / Early october are also very busy in the North Cascades as all the "larch viewers" come out to see the little pine trees turn golden.



I do have LOTS of EXTREMELY scenic loops that have TONS more solitude than Copper Ridge/Devils Dome and Rainbow/Mcalester in CALTOPO that I've done in the North Cascades (which technically start north of Hwy2)
If you are interested in these routes message me I can provide the caltopo links, photos and scenic sections marked out.
 

OwenM

Member
.
Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
277
Thank you so much for answering my questions, confirming some of my concerns, and the offer of alternate routes.
I did have the area built up in my mind based on some TRs where people make it sound like nonstop mountain views. I kept seeing pics of a few specific places, though, and it kinda made me wonder if I was setting myself up for disappointment.
Think I'll just say Uintas or bust for trip #1(Weminuche Wilderness is set for late September), and bite the bullet on the rental car if it comes to that.
Messaging with my friend in the NC mountains last night, and he said he'd take some extra time off if I'd come up there, so I may just save that other week for December...
Thanks again!
 

priz1234

Member
Joined
Jun 10, 2020
Messages
75
Last year I was up in the North Cascades in early September. Spent 8 days and just did a bunch of day hikes. So I can't speak to the backpacking trips you were talking about but I with my limited time I've spent there, I would agree that you spend a lot of time down in the trees and the hikes are about the destination. The North Cascades are one of my favorite areas I've been to and it's because of how cool those destinations are though as well as how amazing the views are when you do get out of the trees. I was mainly doing popular hikes in the area so there obviously wasn't a whole lot of solitude and saw a LOT of people on most of trails. Some of the trailheads were pretty full early in the mornings that time of the year. So probably like everywhere else. When you are very close to a trailhead you probably won't have a whole lot of solitude.
 
Last edited:

TrekkingAZLITE

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2013
Messages
4
I have a Brother who took at the time his two son's to North Cascades most likely late Summer I believe in 2012, they had a great Backpacking Trip, 5 days 4 nights...some of the elevations were challenging but the views all worth it...if you can go do it, they had no issues with animals or any other stuff.
 

OwenM

Member
.
Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
277
Thanks, y'all. Between the uncertainty about the heat and lack of solitude, this place is off the list..
 

ghsmith76

New Member
Joined
May 19, 2021
Messages
2
This is a potential destination for me in early September, instead of the Uintas.
It may well get put off 'til next year, but I'd appreciate any feedback.
The Uintas aren't looking good, simply due to the rental car situation. The prices from SLC are insane(currently $1230 vs. $609 for the same car and dates in Seattle).
The heat wave, which briefly waned in WA, appears to have made a comeback, with temps in the Stehekin area hitting high 90s, and greater than 100F later this week. Temps appear to be much lower just to the northwest of there, but one of the two loops I'd like to do dips right close to Stehekin(Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop). If this continues for another couple of weeks, it'll be outside my trip planning window.

Whenever it actually happens, I need easily accessible loops off SR20, so the current plan is:
-Devil's Dome Loop via East Bank on SR20 at 40.4 miles
-Rainbow/McAlester Pass Loop via SR20 at 31.5 miles.
Any comments on those are welcome, but I will not likely have much extra time to entertain dayhikes or other overnight options, as these are listed as 4 and 4-5 day loops, respectively, and I'll just have 7 days/6 nights.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to hear about lesser known alternatives, though!

I'm mostly wanting to know how many people there really are in September.
The NP itself officially shows very little visitation, but the nearby recreational areas sport some huge numbers. The NPS site's "Backpackpacking Loops" section also warns of sites on one of the other loops(Copper Ridge) filling quickly.
Am I really going to have solitude in this "seldom visited" NP, or is the reality something very different?
I am doing Devil's Dome starting 8/30. I think the heavier traffic may head down to Stehekin. But the north Cascades are great.
 
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