Distance: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,940’
GPS Location: 48.4755, -121.0750
Today's adventure brings us to North Cascades National Park in Washington State, the most epic place you've never heard of (…unless of course you have, in which case, kudos to you!). Known to some as the "Swiss Alps" of the United States, there’s no denying the staggering beauty of this pinnacled park.
About 3.5 hours outside of Seattle lies the trailhead to Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm.
Camping Sidenote: For those interested in backcountry camping aka backpacking, you will need to get a permit at the Wilderness Information Station in Marblemount. We chose to camp at the Johannesburg campsites at the base of the trail, nestled within the forested section of the mountain. The best part – camping is FREE! Gotta love the great outdoors, folks.
So this hike is around 12 miles roundtrip, has nearly 4,000 feet in elevation gain making it exceptionally strenuous, and requires much of the day to complete (it took us nearly 8 hours, granted I stop frequently to photograph and film).
The trailhead is at the end of a crazy paved to unpaved road that clambers up the mountainside away from Marblemount. Make sure your car is ready for the journey!
Once you begin trekking, brutal switchbacks take you up the mountain while the rush of innumerable glacial cascades (from which these mountains get their name) surrounds you.
Once above the tree line after about 2.7 miles, you’ll only have a steady 1-mile walk until you reach Cascade Pass.
The views here are astounding…though frankly, nothing compared to what you’ll experience further up the mountain. So onward we went toward Sahale Arm. As if the scenery wasn’t enough before, the higher you climb, the more mind-blowing massifs you’ll take in.
After about ¾ mile, you’ll reach 6,000 ft in elevation as Sahale Mountain and Doubtful Lake come into marvelous view. Continuing on toward Sahale Arm, the Cascades’ breathtaking peaks pierce the sky, reminding you of their “Swiss Alp” doppelgangers.
At the foot of Sahale Glacier campground, we had to turn back due to waning daylight. Heading down Sahale Arm, the astonishing landscape was honestly otherworldly…it was difficult to believe what we were seeing was real. The lofty peaks along the shimmering skyline as you walk through flowing alpine meadows…man…it just doesn’t get any better!
What followed was a steep descent through wildflower meadows and switch-backed trails until we again reached the trailhead around sunset…our heads still buzzing from the scenery and extremely eager for dinner.
For a full virtual hike of Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm, take a look at the video below!