Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Roundtrip: 16.0 miles
Elevation gain: 3,400 feet
Green Trails Map: Benchmark MT- No. 144
Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Access: From Everett, head east on US 2 to Stevens Pass. Continue east for another 4.0 miles. Just after the highway divides turns left onto Smith Brook Road (FR 6700). Continue for 2.8 miles to trailhead.
Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required; wilderness rules apply
Good to Know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, spectacular wildflowers
This is a long but not too taxing hike along the long-distance Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to the fabled alpine meadows and lakes of the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. While this hike is long, it is not necessary to go all the way to Grizzly. There are fine views and nice lakes along the way, particularly warm and inviting Lake Janus.
Start by following the Smith Brook Trail for 1.0 mile to the PCT at 4,700-foot Union Gap. Head right dropping about 700 feet into the Rapid River Valley avoiding Union Peak’s steep boulder bound slopes. Then begin climbing again traversing a boulder field to emerge on a forested flat harboring patches of blueberries and pretty Lake Janus.
Continue north on the PCT crossing Janus’s outlet creek, the last guaranteed water source on the way to Grizzly. Climbing steadily but gently the way weaves back and forth along the Cascade Crest coming to a 5,200-foot gap with a jaw dropping preview of the spectacular alpine scenery lying ahead. Gaze at Labyrinth Mountain, the Poet Ridge and big snowy volcanic monolith Glacier Peak, Washington’s 4th loftiest summit and Snohomish County’s highest peak.
A half mile beyond the gap an overhanging ledge offers viewing straight down to Glasses Lake. A little farther, gaps in the forest reveal little Margaret Lake lying beneath the west side of crest. Now gently climb again, undulating between sun-kissed heather meadows and cool groves of mountain hemlock.
Perched in a wide cirque 1,200 feet below Heather Lake soon comes into view. Against an emerald backdrop with Glacier Peak hovering above, the shimmering backcountry lake looks stunning from high above. Now utilizing switchbacks the trail climbs steeply up open slopes providing striking views southward all the way to Rainier.
Finally, after 8.0 long but scenically stunning miles reach the unassuming 5,597-foot summit of Grizzly Peak. A carpet of flowering meadows unrolls northward enticing you to keep going all the way to Glacier Peak. But tired calves and better judgment lead you instead to call it quits and just soak up the bountiful beauty before you. And while black bears may frolic these meadows around you—grizzlies probably won’t be making any appearances—so relax and enjoy the wilderness!
For information on lodging and other attractions near Grizzly Peak visit www.snohomish.org
For more detailed information and maps on this hike and others near Stevens Pass and beyond (125 hikes in all), pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook (Mountaineers Books)!