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Commonwealth Basin

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There's nothing common about Commonwealth Basin. This deep canyon nestled in the shadows of Red Mountain and Kendall Peak offers a great opportunity to explore the wild heart of the Cascades with minimal driving and easy hiking. The trail starts just off the most heavily used highway in the Cascades, yet you'll soon find yourself caught deep in the wilderness experience as you stride into the fragrant forests, scrambling over the tumbling creeks of crystal-clear snowmelt waters and climbing through the rocky meadows in this mountain valley.

Start up the PCT as it climbs into the trees above the parking lot and makes a long, lazy sweep east before rounding a hairpin turn to return west across the lower end of an avalanche slope. The jumble of trees piled around the trail illustrate how powerful a little snow can be when it starts to slide downhill. The trail stays in the trees for 2.5 miles before reaching a fork. The PCT continues to climb, while your path angles off left, slicing up into the valley of Commonwealth Creek.

The trail continues up the creek for the next mile, climbing moderately to the headwall of the basin. Here, the going gets tough as the trail runs upward through a long series of tight, steep switchbacks. At nearly 4 miles the route levels a bit as the forest finally gives way to heather meadows.

At 4.5 miles you'll pass above Red Pond (elev. 4860 ft)--a short spur trail drops down to it. Huckleberries can be found in season around the pond basin, and a variety of wildflowers color the meadows above and below the pond.

The final 0.5 mile of trail gains 500 feet as it rises up to the saddle of Red Pass on the ridge between Red Mountain and Lundin Peak. Grand views can be enjoyed from here.

WTA Note: Dogs are required to be on leash at all times on this trail.
Driving Directions:

From Seattle drive I-90 to exit 52 (signed for Snoqualmie Pass west). At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left (north) and cross under the freeway. In about 100 yards, turn right onto a dirt road leading into the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) trailhead.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 125 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Commonwealth Basin — Nov 10, 2013 — SanGaek
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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We weren’t sure what to expect this cloudy day, but we headed to Commonwealth Basin. Still we had ...
We weren’t sure what to expect this cloudy day, but we headed to Commonwealth Basin. Still we had a wonderful time on Commonwealth Basin trail.

We had snowshoes with us, but the snow was only a foot deep at most, so we didn’t get to put them on. The snowshoe route was not passable due to lack of snow. However, spikes were definitely helpful.

Some drizzle along the way, but it didn’t bother us much. We stopped at the meadow after the junction and turned back. We had a dreamy walk in the foggy, snow-covered woods, and the views were not going to get any better. We met several other groups on the way back.

Overall, satisfying hiking on the foggy Sunday at Snoqualmie Pass.
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Kendall Katwalk, Commonwealth Basin — Nov 10, 2013 — Jennifer
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Spent a couple hours leisurely walking on the PCT heading towards Kendall Katwalk. Snow covered the...
Spent a couple hours leisurely walking on the PCT heading towards Kendall Katwalk. Snow covered the forest floor and fell from the trees above illuminating the fact that snowshoe season is upon us.
On the way back, I took the fork down towards Commonwealth basin and veered off the main trail to follow the less maintained path. This portion of the trail was fairly flooded however nothing a good pair of Scarpa's can not overcome.
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Commonwealth Basin — Oct 16, 2013 — rundianarun
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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I arrived at the trailhead just after 9:00 am. Two other cars in the lot. On the main PCT trail be...
I arrived at the trailhead just after 9:00 am. Two other cars in the lot. On the main PCT trail before the cutoff, there were a couple of water crossings. Only one of any concern - poles and waterproof boots were handy.

Once past the cutoff, there were several Big mud bogs. Nothing impassible, but be prepared to get muddy. Some water on the trail in places too.

Don't be fooled by the level walk through the woods after the trail splits, the hard part is yet to come. There are several very nice viewpoints to get pictures of Rainier as you climb the switchbacks.

At the top of the switchbacks the trail is covered with snow. When I got there it was VERY icy. Even with poles I was slipping - yak trax would have come in handy. I only went a bit further than the little lake as I didn't want to risk hurting myself - I hadn't seen anyone else all day. I could see the summit, so it was really hard for me to turn around. Still lots of beautiful views from where I was.
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Commonwealth Basin — Sep 14, 2013 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
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What a great way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the WTA Volunteer Trail Program - with over 30...
What a great way to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the WTA Volunteer Trail Program - with over 30 volunteers working on this beautiful trail!

We started the day with the usual excellent Safety Talk - but this one ended with a Safety Dance - where we all danced around the parking lot to celebrate the day! Of the 30 volunteers, ten were first-timers, and one was Karl Forsgaard who was on the original Commonwealth Basin work party 20 years ago!

We hiked up the trail for over two miles and then worked in teams throughout the day. Some did log-outs, some did rock-work, and our team did brushing. We were passed by at least three dozen hikers who expressed their appreciation.

We ended the day with cake and cookies - and all agreed it was a perfect way to celebrate 20 amazing years.
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Trail Creek, Scatter Creek, Fortune Creek-Van Epps, Lake Ingalls, Jack Creek, Trout Lake, Windy Pass, Enchantment Lakes, Icicle Ridge, Chain Lakes, Icicle Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section J - Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass - East, Commonwealth Basin, Red Pass, Middle Fork Snoqualmie River: Upstream, Dutch Miller Gap — Sep 08, 2013 — Sir-Hikes-A-Lot
Multi-night backpack
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown
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One thing I love to do is create longer hikes in Washington’s wilderness areas and national parks....
One thing I love to do is create longer hikes in Washington’s wilderness areas and national parks. This year I chose to create a route through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The criteria for this hike was that it would start at a very accessible trailhead, would be a loop hike, would use established trail only, and have very few overlapping miles, if any. By not overlapping miles I did have to leave out some areas, but I think this route covers an awful lot of beauty and has good flow.

I also set it up so that Leavenworth is essentially half way through this route, which makes it great for resupply or a day off.

Starting at the PCT trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass, the exact route is as follows:

Hiking to Commonwealth Basin, up to Red Pass, down to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, up to Dutch Miller Gap, down to Waptus Lake, to Trail Creek, to the Deep Lake TH, walking Forest Service Road 4330 to the Scatter Creek TH, up to Van Epps Pass, past Lake Ann and down the Esmeralda Basin trail, up to Ingalls Lake and Stuart Pass, down Jack Creek, up to Trout Lake, up to Windy Pass, down past the Caroline Lakes to the Eightmile TH, up through the Enchantments to the Snow Lakes TH, to the Icicle Ridge TH, hiking the length of the Icicle Ridge Trail to Frosty Pass, to Doelle and Chain Lakes, down to Icicle Creek, up to Lake Josephine, then connecting with and hiking south along the PCT, back to Snoqualmie Pass.

I call this loop the “Alpine Lakes Wilderness Grand Traverse” and it comes in at roughly 204 miles, plus it only overlaps for roughly 1 mile (at the north end of Waptus Lake), if using the alternate entrance to Commonwealth Basin.

9/1 - PCT TH to ~ 1.5 miles before the Cathedral Pass Trail junction (on Trail Creek)

From the PCT TH to Red Pass there are ~ 7 downed trees, a couple are large. Some slight brush issues on the first part of the Commonwealth Basin Trail (alternate), but overall this stretch to Red Pass is in good shape.

The route from Red Pass that heads down to the Middle Fork and Goldmyer starts off as a very steep descent that is very narrow and eroded, with some looseness. After a couple hundred feet the trail mellows and becomes more gradual. There are ~ 18 downed trees to the Middle Fork/Goldmyer, with a couple that are large. Once reaching tree-line it’s off and on brushy to the Middle Fork/Goldmeyer, with some occasional steep and eroded trail. No navigation issues and there is some amazing old-growth on the way down.

From Goldmyer to the Dutch Miller TH, except for 1 downed tree, the trail is immaculate.

From the Dutch Miller TH to Lake Ivanhoe the trail is in perfect shape. A big thanks to the recent trail crew!

From Ivanhoe to the Waptus River trail junction the trail is in pretty good shape with ~ 3 downed trees. Some slight brush issues with the occasional rocky section.

From the Waptus River trail junction to the Trail Cr ford the trail is perfect. The Waptus River ford was only 12” deep and quite warm when I went through and the Waptus ford at the Trail Cr trail junction was only 18” and still nice & toasty.

The Trail Cr Trail was actually in much better shape than I expected…there are ~ 8 downed trees to the Cathedral Pass trail junction and is only occasionally brushy. Thanks to whoever has done the recent work!

9/2 - ~ 1.5 miles before the Cathedral Pass Trail junction to the Meadow Cr Trail junction (on Jack Cr)

There are no issues on the Cathedral Pass Trail and FSR 4330 is always a pleasant early morning walk.

The Scatter Cr Trail is in pretty good shape with a few downed trees to the County Line trail junction (trail 1226.2). Once on the County Line Trail there are ~ 25 downed trees to Van-Epps Pass. The County Line Trail is the first time there are navigation issues on this trip. The worst spot is when you drop down into a meadow at N Fork Fortune Cr, but there are at least three or four other spots where route finding will be difficult…route finding skills are advised. There are plenty of overgrown spots on this section with some steep trail.

At Van-Epps Pass you hit a road and the route continues on the road to the right. You’ll quickly come to a road split and you want to take the left fork, followed by a right fork, followed by a final split, where you’ll go left back onto trail.

From Van-Epps Pass to the Lake Ingalls trail junction the route is in good shape. It is a bit steep and rocky at times coming down from Lake Ann and a bit rocky on the Esmeralda Trail.

The Ingalls Lake Trail is in good shape. The final .25 miles to the pass is a bit steep and rocky and continuing on to the lake is absolutely worth it, but a bit rough in places. Definitely steep, rocky, and it almost feels like a baby scramble.

I actually found the route from Lake Ingalls to Stuart Pass to be very straight forward…it was well defined trail for most of the way. The best approach is to make your way around the west side of the lake and then take the first trail on the left. Once on the trail I found it well marked enough to follow to the pass. Worst case, you can see where the trail cuts up to the pass from Lake Ingalls, so if you get off course it’s easy to see where you should be. The trail does have some steepness to it.

From Stuart Pass (down Jack Cr) to the Meadow Cr trail junction there are ~ 20 downed trees. Some brush issues off and on the whole way down. Overall in pretty good shape…someone’s been through recently and has done a lot of work…thanks!

9/3 - Meadow Cr Trail junction to the Snow Lakes TH

From the Jack Ridge trail junction to Trout Lake the route is severely overgrown, with ~ 95 downed trees. Many trees are large and expect to exude some energy on these 3.5 miles. Some trail erosion issues as well.

From Trout Lake to Windy Pass there are ~ 15 downed trees. It’s very steep at times and quite overgrown below tree-line.
From Windy Pass to the Eightmile Lake TH there are no real issues. The only negative is you are in a burn from Lake Caroline almost all the way to the TH…I was thankful to be going down.

There’s not much to say about the route through the Enchantments…it’s in prime shape for what it is…steep, rocky, grueling, long, but worth every ounce of energy used to experience this magical place. There are no issues with snow at this point.

9/4 - Zero day in Leavenworth/re-supply

Copious food consumption was enjoyed.

9/5 - Leavenworth to just west of Frosty Pass

Walking the ~ 1.5 miles to the Icicle Ridge TH is quite pleasant if done early.

From the Icicle Ridge TH to the old lookout site (just beyond Fourth of July Cr) the trail is in pretty good shape. No blow-downs and there are some brush issues, but it’s not horrible.

The next ~ 7.5 miles to the Hatchery Cr trail junction the route becomes difficult and route finding skills are advised. There are a lot of overgrown sections on this stretch with some steep, eroded, and rough trail. Plenty of spots where you’ll think game trails are the route. When approaching Cabin Cr you enter a burn to help the confusion and there are plenty of down trees. I will say that once across Cabin Cr and back on the ridge the way becomes much easier.

From the Hatchery Cr trail junction to the Chatter Cr trail junction the route is in decent shape. There is definitely some steep trail with occasional erosion issues. Any time you drop elevation and are in the trees the route is quite brushy. No real navigation issues.

From the Chatter Cr trail junction to Frosty Pass the trail is in great shape.

9/6 - Just west of Frosty Pass to ~ 2 miles north of Cathedral Pass

The trail to Doelle and Chain Lakes used to be a rougher go, but it’s becoming so popular it’s now nice trail for a lot of the way. Navigation should be fine for most and the only real issues are it’s occasionally overgrown, steep in places, and rocky in places. It might take some a second look to figure out how to get around the lakes, but it’s not a big deal.

The trail up to the pass that drops you to Chain Lakes is in good shape and the trail down to Chain Lakes is a bit rocky but good.

Heading down to the Icicle Cr Trail, the route is in good shape…brushy in spots, but not bad.

The Icicle Cr Trail has been cleared up to the PCT and is in real good shape.

Once on the PCT, the trail is in great shape to Deception Pass.

From Deception Pass to Cathedral Pass there are ~ 15 downed trees. There is one spot of rough trail but it’s not too bad. The three creek crossings below Mt Daniel can all be crossed on rocks and logs, but most were fording the middle crossing which is always the worst of the three…the ford didn’t seem too difficult if you aren’t comfortable using the rocks and logs, but a couple of heavy thunder storms could change that.

9/7 - ~ 2 miles north of Cathedral Pass to the PCT TH

I ran into a WTA trail crew that had just finished their stint at Deep Lake…thanks for the excellent job! Thanks to the woman in the back who when I asked “how are you today,” replied, “I was okay until I put this pack on.” Something about how you said that made me chuckle and put a smile on my face for the next hour…thanks!

From Deep Lake to Waptus Lake there are some slight brush issues, but overall the trail’s in good shape.

From Waptus Lake to the Lemah Cr there are 15-20 downed trees. There are quite a few brushy spots, especially coming up to Escondido Ridge. The south Lemah Cr Bridge is out…there is a log downstream, but otherwise it’s a ford.

From Lemah Cr to the PCT TH, the route is in great shape. There are some baby brush issues before Spectacle Lake and it’s very rocky from Chikamin Pass to Ridge Lake.

This was a magical trip despite the weather and it’s nice to know that large pockets of solitude still exist in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

If interested, I’ve created a YouTube video and it can be seen at:

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Commonwealth Basin summer opus.jpg
Commonwealth Basin trail. Photo by Opus.
Commonwealth Basin (#1033)
Snoqualmie Pass -- Snoqualmie Pass
Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie - North Bend District
Roundtrip 10.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2700 ft
Highest Point 5350 ft
Old growth
Fall foliage
Mountain views
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Pass (Nelson & Bauer - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass No. 207

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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