Twisp Pass─Golden larches, fire-red meadows and sublime North Cascades views

Spectacular autumn colors await you at Twisp Pass.

Spectacular autumn colors await you at Twisp Pass.

Quick Facts

Location: Twisp River Valley-North Cascades

Land Agency: US Forest Service and National Park Service

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,450 feet

Green Trails Map: Stehekin, WA – No 82

Contact: Methow Valley Ranger District: Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest (509) 996-4003;

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required. Dogs prohibited beyond Twisp Pass.

Access: From Twisp follow Twisp River Road (FR 4400) 24.6 miles to trailhead.

A dramatic portal into the North Cascades National Park, this hike is absolutely glorious in October when golden larches set the surrounding slopes aglow and crimson blueberry bushes light the alpine meadows on fire!

From the trailhead, venture west and soon enter the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness. The trail follows alongside the Twisp River, undulating between cool lush forest and warm brushy avalanche slopes. Pass giant cottonwoods shedding yellow leaves onto the forest floor.At 2.0 miles reach a junction at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Twisp River. The trail right leads to Copper Pass; stay left crossing the North Fork on a narrow bridge. Now steadily gain elevation and skirt around Lincoln Peak. Thinning pines and ledges provide for good glimpses down the glacially-carved Twisp River Valley.

The trail works its way higher along Lincoln’s south slopes. Admire growing views of South Creek Butte, Crescent, Hock and Twisp Mountains. Pass rock gardens, blueberry patches, heather meadows and clumps of sub-alpine fir. At 4.5 miles in splendid parklands arrive at 6064-foot Twisp Pass. A well-weathered sign indicates you’re only a few steps away from entering the sprawling North Cascade National Park.

Dagger Lake lies within it—attainable by continuing another mile losing 600 feet along the way. If that doesn’t sound too enticing consider following a short way path left to a small tarn in the shadow of craggy Twisp Mountain. Supreme wanderings however lie in the other direction. Locate an abandoned but obvious trail heading north from the pass. Traversing meadows and subalpine forests beneath Lincoln Butte, this trail marches on towards Stiletto Peak. Enjoy sharp views of Stiletto and down to Dagger. The only thing more impressive than the views of the surrounding jagged North Cascades Peaks are the prolific larches clinging to steep slopes brushing them gold. The tread eventually peters out in a high basin below the old Stiletto Lookout about 2.0 miles from the pass. If you’re with your dog however, you’ll have to be content with the views from the pass.

For more information on this hike and 124 others in the North Cascades, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades book.

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