Winter Ascent of Trappers Peak

Rate this Adventure Washington Thornton Lake Trail

Added by Jacob Moon

  • Elevation Gain: 5966ft
  • Distance one way: ~5.5 miles (from the trailhead)
  • Jaw dropping views that will stay with you for a lifetime
  • An accessible peak in a remote mountain region

North Cascade National Park is home to some of the most rugged and remote mountains in the lower 48 states. Because of this, the area is rarely seen up close and personal in the winter, but there are a few spots where you can see these wild mountains that will defy all imagination. In terms of locations, relative ease of access and jaw dropping 360° views, Trapper's Peak has to be one of the best.

11 miles down HWY 20 east of Marblemount is the Thornton Lake Road. This road gains roughly 2000 feet of elevation over 5 miles and leads to the Thornton Lake trailhead, which is hopefully where you will also begin your hike. The road, like most mountain road in WA, isn't plowed and if snow level are low enough the road becomes impassable for most vehicle and thus the road leading to the trailhead could possible become the trailhead itself so it is important to know snow conditions before heading out as it could change your plans drastically.

Once reaching the Thornton Lake Trailhead the standard hike begins by following an old logging road for about 2.3 miles with only 500 ft elevation gain. This section is very easy to follow.

Then the trail turns left and up the mountain following switch back and crossing a few meadows for ~2000 ft elevation gain over 2.2 miles to reach the saddle. This section is thickly forested for the most part so snow should be thin and the trail can be easy to follow at times but once reaching the more open areas higher up just below the saddle, the trail will most certainly be hidden under snow. An excellent knowledge of maps, compasses and good route finding will be required to keep moving in the right direction in a timely manner. It is not obvious where to go up there, so know before you go. Also the snow in the more open areas of the trail, will most likely be deep and soft. Bring snowshoes and plan for extra time here.

Once the reaching the saddle you will be greeted by stunning views down to the Thornton Lakes and up at the surrounding mountains but most importantly you will be able to see your goal, Trappers Peak!

The route finding once again becomes very straight forward. Turn right and follow the top of the ridge, 1000 vertical feet over 1 mile, up to the summit of Trappers Peak. As you follow the ridge up and towards the summit the ridge will narrow and the snow should become harder and easier to walk across. There are several small steep rises in the ridge that you will have to go up, the first one being the steepest and most vegetated. Also, as the ridge nears the final steep rise (the summit) the ridge will narrow and cornices will be likely. Be sure to NEVER walk on a cornice and give them a wide berth. Once past the narrowest section of the ridge, the summit dome will loom over head with the final 45 feet being very steep. If the snow is soft, steps can be kicked to ascent the final 45 feet but if the snow is hard, which it is likely to be because of its altitude and exposure to the sun and wind, I'd suggest crampons.

Once reaching the summit, you will be graced by one of the fantastic views in the North Cascades with the wildly rugged Southern Pickett Range to the north and Mount Triumph proudly standing to the NW.

Did I mention that the very summit of Trappers Peak is a great place to pitch a tent for the adventurous.

Pack List

  • Winter Appropriate Clothing
  • Snowshoes
  • Hiking Poles
  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Map and/ or compass
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Extra clothing
  • Headlamp/ flashlight
  • First-aid supplies
  • Waterproof matches/ lighter/ candles
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Emergency shelter
  • Camera
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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



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography, Snowshoeing

Skill Level:




Trail Type:



11 Miles

Elev. Gain:

5966 Feet


Easy Parking
Food Nearby

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Added by Jacob Moon

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