Maple Pass — Lofty North Cascades Loop lined with larches and long ranging vistas

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Lake Ann sits below snug in a deep cirque.

Quick Facts:

Location: North Cascades Highway –Rainy Pass

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 7.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet

Green Trails Maps: Mount Logan, WA- No. 49, Washington Pass, WA- No. 50

Access:  From I-5 north (Exit 230 ) in Burlington, head east on SR 20 (North Cascades Highway) for 98 miles to Rainy Pass near Milepost 158. Turn right into the Rainy Pass Picnic Area for trailhead.

Contact:  Methow Valley Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Notes: Northwest Forest or Interagency Pass required

 

Good to Know: dog friendly, kid-friendly, exceptional wildflowers in season. Exceptional autumn colors

 

Among all of the supreme hikes on the breathtaking North Cascade Highway, the Maple Pass Loop is perhaps the absolute best! In just seven non-repeating miles you’ll traverse majestic old-growth forest, resplendent alpine meadows, and enticing open ridges granting stunning North Cascades vistas. And if you love wildflowers, Maple Pass’s annual floral show is one of the finest in Washington.

For a gentler ascent, hike the loop counter-clockwise. Start by steadily gaining elevation through a stately ancient forest of fir, spruce, and hemlock. DSC09671Huckleberry bushes crowd the understory, tempting you to join resident birds and ground squirrels for a snack.

At 1.4 miles reach a junction. The trail left leaves for an easy 0.6 mile to Lake Ann tucked in an open cirque beneath towering rock walls laced with cascades. It’s a beautiful side-trip. The loop continues right. Enter subalpine forest and work your way around the cirque cradling Lake Ann.

At 2.5 miles reach Heather Pass where a rough path branches right to Lewis and Wing Lakes. Continue left along the cirque rim through heather and dazzling rock gardens.  Lake Ann glistens 1,000 feet straight below. The trail eventually crests an open ridge draped with alpine larch, coming to 6,600-foot Maple Pass at 3.5 miles. There’s still more climbing to do, however. Continue upward topping out on a 6,900-foot shoulder of Frisco Mountain. Now savor sublime views of the serrated and icy skyline before you.

The trail then rapidly plunges off the ridge to a hanging valley, but not without traversing yet more glorious meadows and flower gardens. Rainy Lake, 1,700 feet below soon comes into view. So does Frisco’s glaciers. It’s then a quick descent through hemlock, heather, and huckleberry to the paved Rainy Lake Trail. Follow it left for a half mile back to your start.

 

And for detailed information on this and other area hikes, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades, which contains 125 hikes complete with maps and lots of other important information.0486

 For information on nearby family friendly lodging and things to do, consult Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

 

 

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