Copper Pass (#426) North Cascades -- West Slope
Sep 27, 2009
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Copper Pass
- Region: North Cascades -- East Slope
- Agency: Okanogan National Forest - Methow Valley Ranger District
- Trails: Copper Pass (#426)
- Avg Rating: 2.50
- Why You Should Go Now
- Ripe berries
- Be Aware Of
Trail head is about 40 feet west of the marker, across the rock drainage ditch. The trail heads into the forest contouring around the ridge and is an easy to follow well established route. At one time, it was maintained as evidenced by the large, old deadfall that has been cut. The first 1/2 mile gains 200 feet and is a little brushy. The next mile gains 750 feet through some eroded side hill areas and two short switchbacks. At 1.3 miles from hwy 20, find the rock cairn marking the top of the main trail switchbacks from Bridge Creek. The main trail goes steeply downhill to your right and is shown on Green Trail Map 82 for Stehekin. From this first section, Frisco Peak, Bridge Creek to Bowman Mountain, and Goode Ridge can be seen.
Continue east through the open meadows with the head of Copper Creek in front and the Stiletto Peak ridge line on your right across the Copper Creek valley. The old lookout was at the high point on the west end of the ridge. The next mile rolls along fairly level until you get to the meadows at the head of Copper Creek. Then you gain 200 feet in 1/2 mile to enter the upper meadows. Blue berries are still here along with bears to eat them as evidenced by several piles of bear scat. Also startled one deer in this area.
The final 3/4 mile climb to the pass gains 650 feet. Part way up you will reach an obvious junction, go to the right towards the notch in the ridge running from Stiletto Peak. The trail to the left goes to a saddle at the head of Copper Creek basin you can cross to get the head waters of Early Winters Creek and descend to the hairpin turn on hwy 20.
Total trip length from mm160 to Copper Pass is 3 3/4 miles and 1900 feet of elevation gain. The trail has some deadfall throughout and the spur from mm160 to the main trail is a little brushy. There are 4 stream crossings, the first 2 were dry and the last 2 had running water. All are fords, no bridges. The first 3 come off the ridge between Copper Creek and Blue Lake. By the way, this ridge can be crested to descend the east side of Blue Lake I am told. The last stream is Copper Creek itself and probably has water year around.
There is an old camp site (horse camp???) in the upper meadows (definate bear country) with a rock fire ring and rounds to sit on. This trail was once loved by the Forest Service as I noticed the old 2 mile and 3 mile markers on trees. Interestingly, the mileage matched my GPS distance from mm160. Makes me wonder what the mileage is from Bridge Creek to those markers. However, now all appearances are that boots are the only maintenance this trail currently
gets. I wonder if pre-highway 20 this trail connected to the old PCT trail up Granite Creek to Washington Pass or if the trail was put in after the highway to avoid the drop into Bridge Creek and save about 1000 feet of elevation gain.
At the pass, the route the Alan described is obvious (see picture). The saddles to crest the ridges to Blue Lake and Early Winters Creek (see pictures) are also obvious. Two backpackers came down off Stiletto Peak who had camped at Stiletto Lake. They went right along the ridge crest and were followed by a mountain goat to just above the pass. Scramblers could find happiness here for many days! However, as always bring a good map if you are planning on running the ridges.
Total wildlife tally: 2 black bears, 1 deer, 1 mountain goat, and 1 blue grouse.