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Copper Pass (#426) North Cascades -- West Slope

Sep 27, 2009

by Marty the trail badger last modified Feb 04, 2010 11:42 AM
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
Stiletto Peak Ridge from Copper Pass. September 2009, Marty Barney
Copper Pass Trail from Highway 20 Mile Marker 160. Copper Pass is a scramblers and cross country travelers delight. This area was recently featured in the magazines favorite hikes section (Alan's favorite) and then with 2 trip reports on the website. I checked all 3 of my guide books (100 hikes 2nd and 3rd editions plus Craig Romano's Day Hiking North Cascades) and none of them discuss the route to Copper Pass from mile marker 160 on hwy 20. In fact, they all approach Copper Pass via the Twisp River with the 100 hikes series giving a brief description of the west side approach. Sometimes refered to as the 'Copper Pass, Stiletto Spur Trail'. Here is a trail description from highway 20, mile marker 160 (mm160).

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.

Basin below Copper Pass, Twisp River side, route to Twisp Pass. September 2009, Marty Barney
Nelia climbing to Copper Pass with saddle to Blue Lake in the background. September 2009, Marty Barney
Head of Copper Creek Basin looking towards saddle to Early Winters Creek (left center), September 2009, Marty Barney
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