The jagged peaks of the north cascades are a mountaineer’s dream. They are challenging, mesmerizing, and full of new opportunities. Some of the most beautiful views in the west are just slightly below those peaks. Just inside the borders of North Cascades National Park is the Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm hike.
About a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, the final 12-15 miles are on a nicely groomed dirt road that eventually winds you up to the trailhead. Once a lesser-known gem, this Washington destination has blossomed in popularity. Remember if you plan to hike on the weekend, as the parking lot will fill up quickly.
Overall, the hike isn’t too hard. The first three miles are all switchbacks, taking you higher and higher on the mountainside through a sea of trees. Every once and a while, you’ll get a break in the trees to see mountains in the distance. Once you leave the trees, the view of Cascade Pass becomes ever apparent. The view there will not disappoint. It’s easily one of the best North Cascades hikes in the area.
Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm
Hiking Details for Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm
Length: 10-12 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,000 +/-
Beauty Level: Gorgous
Best time to hike: Sunset with a walk down in the dark
Hiking up the Arm
Once at Cascade Pass, take a quick breather, but don’t stay too long. The views are only going to get better as you ascend. The next mile or so will be steep, but Doubtful Lake will make her first appearance at the top of the ridge. It’s so pretty with the towering peaks behind it and the snowmelt waterfalls running down the slopes.
Some may call this the turnaround point, but you’ll notice a ridgeline on your left. That is Sahale Arm, and it’ll guide you up to Sahale Glacier Camp. Go as high as you feel comfortable, but it’s neither complex nor dangerous. At a certain point on the Arm, once you’ve begun to go up in the rocks, you’ll be able to see Mt. Baker peaking out on the horizon. You’ll also be able to look down at Doubtful Lake with the North Cascade Range fawning out behind it. The view is one of the best Washington can offer.
Backpacking to Sahale Glacier Camp
Backpacking is only allowed with a wilderness permit here due to National Park regulations. However, you can score one early in the year online. Or, it can only be secured with a ‘walk-up’ permit from the Marbelmoutn Visitor Center the day before your hike. This is a sought-after location, so plan to be there before 7:30 am. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s at the top of my U.S. bucket list.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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