Middle Ridge—Beneath a fortress in the middle of the Glacier Peak Wilderness

Follow the Sheep Creek Trail to the Middle of Nowhere on Middle Ridge

Follow the Sheep Creek Trail to the Middle of Nowhere on Middle Ridge

Quick Facts

Location: Glacier Peak Wilderness

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 26.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,100 feet

Green Trails Map: Holden, WA- No. 113

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest (360) 436-1155; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required.

Access: From Everett, head 85 miles east on US 2 to Coles Corner turning left onto SR 207. At 4.0 miles bear right at a Y-intersection onto the Chiwawa Loop Road and after 1.3 miles turn left onto the Chiwawa River Road (FR 62). Proceed for 22.5 miles to trailhead at road’s end.

A long Labor Day Weekend blessed with plenty of warmth and sunshine calls out for a backpacking adventure. And there’s no better place in Snohomish County for extended backpacking trips than the sprawling 570,000-acre Glacier Peak Wilderness. Unfortunately most of the access roads to this trail haven from the west are washed out. But you can still access the wilderness and some of Snohomish County’s remotest country from the east.

And while eastern approaches into Glacier Peak may harbor a few crowds this upcoming weekend, there are a handful of places near the popular locations for a little solitude. If you’re planning on heading to Buck Creek Pass or Image Lake—consider a side trip along Middle Ridge to a big wide open lonely flower-filled cirque beneath 8,674-foot Fortress Mountain. While legions of hikers will be heading to and fro Buck Creek Pass, the Lyman Lakes, and Image Lake; chances are good that very few will venture along Middle Ridge. All the best for you to observe wildlife and experience a spectacular location in a true wilderness setting!

Start at the Trinity trailhead on the Buck Creek Trail. Immediately skirt the old mining now ghost town of Trinity, and follow Buck Creek through a lush valley of avalanche greenery and groves of big trees. At about 6.5 miles the trail makes a wide switchback away from Buck Creek to begin ascending out of the valley. Viewing is excellent of Buck Creek Pass flanked by sentinels, Liberty Cap and Helmet Butte. Angling higher across steep slopes, cross a nice creek and continue ascending traversing high meadows. Reach the 5,950-foot pass at 9.6 miles and take in a breathtaking in-your-face view west of majestic Glacier Peak rising across the deep emerald chasm cut by the Suiattle River!

Then leave the crowds behind continuing on the Middle Ridge Trail. Consider a .75 mile side trip up 6,332-foot Flower Dome where you can revel in blossoms and an excellent view of Snohomish County’s highest summit, 10,541-foot Glacier Peak. The Middle Ridge Trail continues north dropping 800 feet to cross Small Creek—which in early season and during periods of heavy rainfall isn’t small at all.

Then regain lost elevation and then some by climbing 1,000 feet to crest Middle Ridge. Locate the unmarked but obvious Sheep Creek Trail veering right. Take it heading along the ridge and delivering you in just less than a mile into a remote and wide open 6,300-foot basin beneath 8,674-foot Fortress Mountain. Find a nice place to set up camp. Small creeks provide water. Then feel free to roam the basin and adjacent ridges—or just sit back and enjoy the solitude. Middle Ridge will feel like the middle of nowhere—and that’s just the way you want it!

For information on lodging and other attractions near Middle Ridge visit www.snohomish.org. For more information on backpacking in the Glacier Peak Wilderness consult my new guidebook Backpacking Washington.

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