Backpack to Pelton Basin in North Cascades NP

Rate this Adventure Washington Cascade Pass Trailhead

Added by Mike Quine

The North Cascades mountain range has commonly been referred to as the "American Alps." If the drive through the National Park's North Cascades Highway does not convince you of the worthy title, than this sub-5 mile hike surely tip the scales.

An otherwise daunting and seemingly endless wave of switchbacks rewards the weary with repeated views of peaked majesty and picturesque landmark of Cascade Pass before delving into the Basin itself.

Starting at 3,640 feet elevation, the Cascade Pass Trailhead begins adjacent to the Johannesburg Camp and proceeds east along a relentless series of switchbacks. Though the trail is consumed by a thick Washington evergreen forest, the switchbacks frequently open to sweeping vistas of the far-reaching mountain ranges. 

**A word about the North Cascades Highway and its many break-off roads are prone to landslides, be prepared to potentially have to start this hike approximately 3 miles further away near the next closest parking lot.

Back on the trail, you eventually reach the Cascade Pass approximately 3.7 miles from the trailhead, but not before crossing over a respectably size scree field - bear sightings can be frequent in this area. 

After spending 5 minutes, an hour, a lifetime at the Cascade Pass, you will be feeling yourself being forced to continue and abandon an unparalleled view, though the views ahead are equally rewarding. Here you have the choice to continue northeast to the Sahale Arm Glacier or southeast to the Pelton Basin. For this adventure you will continue southeast and find ourselves once again traversing a less forgiving scree field. Careful footing is recommended given the larger nature of the boulders and possibility of getting your feet stuck. 

In less than one mile, and once passed the scree field, your reward is a seemingly isolated forest hugging the Pelton Creek that so graciously helped carve the miracle basin you may be witnessing. 

A clear and quiet night almost guarantees that you will be falling asleep to the thunderous sounds of the above-glaciers forming new tracks through the mountains...ever-changing the park.

From here, your adventure can continue onward to the Stehekin Valley or about-face back the way you came to start another adventure.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Snowshoes (winter only)
  • Ice Axe (Winter Only)
  • Crampons (Winter only)
  • Layered Clothes - Drastic elevation changes, expect drastic temperature changes
  • Usual suspects Backpacking Kit (adjusted to the season)
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Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



4.2 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1600 Feet



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Added by Mike Quine

...a year long journey through the American landscape of our National Parks. Disengaged from societal pursuits to set out alone and face the uncertainty guaranteed by the Wilderness. Hardening both hands and mind through tempered resolve.

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