Backpack to High Camp on Ruby Mountain

Rate this Adventure Washington Thunder Creek Trailhead

Added by Cammeron Evans

This strenuous hike lies off the beaten path, revealing some of the North Cascades most prominent wonders. 

Ruby Mountain is one of the North Cascades more prominent peaks, sitting high above Diablo and Ross Lakes. This trip is one for more experienced hikers with a very aggressive incline from start to finish. If that does not scare you then definitely add this amazing hike to your list. While it can be enjoyed as a day hike, I would highly recommend a heavier pack for the overnight stay. 

My group and I began our journey from Seattle after wrapping up work on our Friday. Being that this hikes stats tend to ward off the many hikers out there, its availability on the weekends should not be too much different than a midweek trip. On your way to the Colonial Creek Campground, where the trailhead lies, swing through the Marblemount Wilderness Information Center to obtain your wilderness permit for the overnight stay. While there, ask the helpful rangers on site about any recent trips taken to your destination, to inquire about water sources, wildlife activity, trail damage, etc. Now you may begin to get excited as the beautiful drive into North Cascades continues. Being that this hike is a long one, I would recommend staying overnight at the campground so that you can grab the early start without having the drives wear and tear on you. You will definitely need all of your energy and strength for the adventure ahead. No pass is required for parking although, there are limited spots with no restrictions just outside of the trailhead so try and grab one right away if possible. 

This trail begins following Thunder Creek at about 1400ft. for about 1.5 miles until you reach Thunder Camp. This camp sits right across the creek and is the gateway to many other trails and potential trips. Follow the trail until you see the 4th of July Trail junction, once you hit this the trail climbs fairly moderately to 4th of July Camp. You have now climbed roughly a third of you mission. This camp is a great place to either set up for a day trip the rest of the way, or a nice break for the remainder of your mission. From 4th of July Camp, continue the trail towards the 4th of July Pass. This section is less than a mile long. If you hit the second footbridge, you have gone a bit too far. Just prior to this bridge, there are a couple cairns easy to spot that lead you onto the bootpath trail. This was the last fresh water source our group could locate. The remainder of the hike is a challenge in itself so take what you need for water and prepare for the jaunt ahead. There should be snow high up on the ridge year round for melting, so if thats your choice be sure to bring extra fuel for melting. You will see a sign indicating that the trail is no longer maintained. Now the climb begins to intensify slowly but surely for the remainder. Many switchbacks make the climb feel very long but poles will help your body to continue with less wear. Along the trail you will find many blowdowns that are easy enough to cross, the higher you go, the slimmer the trees become. Keep climbing up and up until you break out of the trees about 1000 ft. shy of the ridge. You are now in high alpine country and the views begin to come into your vision. Take note of Mt. Baker and Shuksan in the distance and many of the Glaciers this area boasts all around. The trail soon turns into a rocky scramble up to the ridge. 

Once you reach the ridge you will find that its a bit of a false summit, yet the bulk of your views are now in sight making it a joy to continue the last several hundred feet. Head left towards the peak from the ridge and look right, you will see the massive Ross Lake leading your vision up towards Canadian Peaks. This part of the hike attacks your senses in such a way that it becomes a very spiritual experience for anyone who has paid the price to get here. Once you climb over the next hump on the ridge the peak comes into view with a large radio tower making it unmissable. Keep your eyes peeled, there is a three group overnight limit up here, so be sure to choose your camp spot wisely as it is a very delicate and beautiful area. Make sure to refer to your map or GPS once at the summit to identify all the peaks and Glaciers surrounding you. This hike was the most challenging yet for my group and I, but the near claustrophobic views were equally one of our largest payoffs for the work invested. Do your research ahead for the moon cycle to maximize your experience. While seeing the place lit up at night can be mesmerizing, I found the celestial bodies up here to be the finest I have ever seen. Bring lots of food and take care of yourself while enjoying your accomplishment. The next day will be equally as strenuous for your decent. 

Remember to always practice "leave no trace" ethics while adventuring so that we can pay these amazing experiences and places forward. With all the distractions our world has to offer, we need to keep these areas safe and protected as best we can to allow future generations to see the worlds true beauty. Good luck and don't forget to laugh and have fun! 

Pack List

  • The Big Ten
  • Extra Fuel (for snow melt)
  • Extra Layers (Help with wind)
  • Camera
  • Wilderness Permit (obtained at Marblemount Wilderness Information Center)
  • Winter Snow Gear (You can reach the summit in the winter time via alternate routes, do extra research for weather)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

17 Miles

Elev. Gain:

6300 Feet

Features:

Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic
Wildflowers

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