Johnson Ridge–Ridgeline hike in the Wild Sky Wilderness


Joan Lake sparkles below Scorpion Peak

Location: Beckler River near Skykomish

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

High Point: 5,540 feet

Elevation gain: 2,650 feet

Difficulty: difficult

Green Trails Maps: Alpine Lakes West Stevens Pass No. 176S

Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest 

Access: From Everett head east on US 2 for 50 miles turning left onto the Beckler River Road (FR 65). Then continue north 6.9 miles to pavement’s end at three way junction (just before Rapid River bridge). Make a sharp right turn onto FR 6520. In 2.7 miles bear left at unmarked junction continuing on FR 6520 for another 4.2 miles to road’s end and trailhead

Good to know: Dog-friendly, exceptional wildflowers, exceptional views. Wild Sky Wilderness, wilderness rules apply, Practice Leave No Trace Principles 


One of the best meadow-traversing, ridge-walking, view-granting trails in the Skykomish Valley, Johnson Ridge is also surprisingly one of the region’s quieter trails. Accessing Washington’s newest wilderness area, the Wild Sky; and culminating on a peak named Scorpion, the panoramic view of jagged peaks and emerald ridges may very well leave you momentarily paralyzed.

Begin by following an old road turned trail. While it’s a steep start, delectable views of nearby peaks, especially of the serrated summits surrounding Spire Mountain and El Capitan offer nice diversions.  The grade eventually eases and the way becomes real trail gently marching along Johnson Ridge.  At 2.0 miles round the heather graced 5,050-foot summit of Sunrise Mountain. Enjoy outstanding views east of the meadow-cloaked high-country embracing the Cascade Crest with snowy sentinel Glacier Peak watching over. Cherish too, the view north of the Monte Cristo Range, an impressive wall of ice and rock. Sunrise makes a perfectly fine destination for those seeking a shorter hike.

But if it’s Scorpion Mountain you wish to strike out for, continue—steeply dropping over 300 feet to a narrow saddle. Then commence climbing again through patchy meadows and thinning forest. At about 3.5 miles enter full blown meadow replete with resplendent wildflowers. Retreating momentarily from the emerald lawns, the trail creeps up the steep ridge crest before traversing flower-studded fields just below Scorpion’s summit. Now at an unmarked junction head left making one final hurrah to subdue Scorpion’s 5,540-ft rounded summit and reap in the spoils of stunning 360-degree Cascades viewing.

Take a break from looking at mountains and notice twinkling and enticing Joan Lake lying below. It’s reachable by a brushy steep trail. But note that the mosquitoes there can be ferocious. You may just want to enjoy the lake from above!

For more detailed  information on this hike and many others in the Stevens Pass area, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades book.

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