Backpack the Easton Glacier Railroad Grade

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This adventure offers pretty much everything you could hope for in a North Cascades hike...a volcano, glaciers, wildflowers, suspension bridges, river crossings (without bridges!), and blueberries in late summer. What's not to like? In late summer, gorge yourself on blueberries on the hike to camp. You can add an extra 6 miles and 1000' if you choose to add the Scott Paul Trail.

Begin at the Park Butte trailhead, trail 603. Hike past the first Scott Paul trail sign a few hundred feet from the trailhead. Continue on and cross appropriately name Rocky Creek heading up on the Park Butte Trail. Continue up the Park Butte trail passing the Scott Paul trail again at about 4,500'. At about 4,700 feet the trail forks, take a right which goes up to the Railroad Grade itself. The Railroad grade is a prominent lateral moraine formed by the retreating Easton Glacier which has a ridge like appearance. The trail ascends right on top of the moraine for a while before the moraine disappears into the rocky ridge. Between 5,500 and 6,500 feet there are numerous camp spots, with generally accessible water.

After you set up camp, take some time to explore above and over towards the dramatic Deming Glacier, as it tumbles down from it's lofty perch below the Black Buttes.

Now you have a choice to make. Do you head back down to the trailhead, or do you complete the trip as a loop returning on the Scott Paul trail. If your legs are willing, I recommend the Scott Paul loop.

To complete the hike via the Scott Paul loop, head back down towards the trailhead the way you came up. At 4,500', take the left at the turnoff with the sign post indicating the Scott Paul trail. After hiking through the forest, the trail descends the moraine you were just hiking on down to the creek and a nice suspension bridge over the river coming off the Easton Glacier. Follow the trail as it winds up and over moraines, forest, and creeks. Beware, there is a creek crossing that may be difficult in early season or on hot sunny days when glacier melt is making it swollen.

As you follow the Scott Paul trail, it will eventually reconnect to the Park Butte trail just above the trailhead.

NOTE: If you do the Scott Paul Trail option, the suspension bridge is only in place July – September.

Pack List

  • Ten essentials
  • Water filter. There is plenty of water but you'll want to filter out the nasties
  • Camera for capturing the amazing scenery
  • Hiking poles for the steep and rocky trail, as well as the potential creek crossing
  • Northwest Forest Pass
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Activities:

Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

10 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3000 Feet

Features:

Forest
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

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Added by Stephen Matera

Stephen is a Seattle-based outdoor adventure, lifestyle, and landscape photographer. He has worked with companies in the outdoor industry for over 15 years as well as some of the biggest national magazines in the adventure world. He travels and shoots for his clients in the western U.S., Alaska, and internationally, but is completely happy to shoot in his backyard mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

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