• Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    11 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    5300 Feet


Test your nerves and dertermination scrambling up this secluded peak buried in the middle of the North Cascades.

Not for the faint of heart - or those with a fear of heights - Mount Pugh offers some of the most rewarding summit views in the Cascades.

Located off the northern end of the Mountain Loop Highway, this is an easy day trip from anywhere in the Puget Sound area. Though finding the trailhead can be tricky - it's not at the end of the Forest Service road, but rather just after the last switchback. Parking is very limited, though luckily not many people make a go up this rugged peak.

The first three miles are your standard switchbacks through the woods, though you can easily crank out the miles. About 1.5 miles in, you come to a little lake with views of the summit. Yes, THAT is what you're going up. Take a deep breath and continue left around the lake.

You break out of the woods at the base of Stujack Pass. In a recurring theme, yes THAT is what you're going up. Suck it up and grunt your way to the top of this thigh-burning mountainside.

Now it's time to wipe off that sweat and collect your wits, because it's about to get scrambly! Before too long you're tip-toeing along a knife-edge ridge with eye-popping views out to both sides. Weave your way along the ledges to the top of a thin, quickly-disappearing glacier.

You're entering the crux of the route - crossing a crumbly dip in the trail (actually a fault line) then embarking on an extended class 3 scramble section. All with dizzying exposure.

If you haven't scrambled before, this isn't the place to start. Even after this section, there's continued exposure as you ascend one false summit after another on your grueling finish to the top.

Those who make it to this tiny summit with be greatly rewarded with insanely beautiful views of some of the hardest-to-reach places in the state. Search for the summit register, proudly sign your name, and gather the courage to make it back down.

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Plenty of water, as there's none available after the lake
  • Camera
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Overall rating: 

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Not for the faint of heart indeed! Definitely took me longer than I thought to complete, but the scramble towards the top was a fun one, and not near as hard or dangerous as it is made out to be. The lake is more of a pond, however, and there are no water sources after this point, so bring more water than you think you will need. At no point was the trail hard to find, even the climb to the knife's edge was well marked, and the views at this point are spectacular. Also, I arrived at the meadow around noon, which was a mistake, as bees and flies and all sorts of flying creature were biting and stinging as you push through the wildflowers. I also saw many more hikers than I thought, it being a secluded trail and all, about ten other hikers on this sunny Tuesday. Overall, I started at 9am and reached the top at 2:30pm, taking an hour to enjoy the views (you can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and the Puget Sound on a clear day) and made it back to the car around 7pm. Will definitely being doing again once my legs have recovered!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Mitch Pittman Explorer

I live in Seattle, but my life happens in the mountains. My hobbies include long walks in the woods, whiskey in hot springs, and carrying skis up long slogs for a few turns in late summer.

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