Spider Meadow and Phelps Basin
Jul 16, 2010
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Spider Meadow and Phelps Basin
- Region: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East
- Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Wenatchee River Ranger District, Leavenworth
- Trails: Spider Meadows (#1511)
- Avg Rating: 3.82
- Hiking Companions
- Hiked with a dog
- Be Aware Of
- Water on trail
- Snow on trail
Wow!!! I had begun to wonder if I'd grown too accustomed to nature's beauty to be moved by it any longer (I just returned from the Grand Canyon, and while it was beautiful, it didn't knock my socks off like I thought it would). Today, however, the splendor of the North Cascades completely took my breath away! The eye-popping view of lusciously green Spider Meadow, with snow-capped crags and glaciated spires rising up majestically on either side of the valley floor...wow! I confess, as I emerged from the confines of the forest, this stunning vista brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine what it will be like in 2-3 weeks when the wildflowers are exploding in riotous color across this sprawling basin.
The trail is quite gentle and for the first 5.2 miles, you hike in the cool of the forest, the rushing sound of the creek your constant companion. There are several shallow (but some are broad and long) water crossings which are easy to rock-hop until you get to Leroy Creek at 3.5 miles, which currently necessitates getting your feet wet. A second large wet crossing is at 4.6 miles, but by that point, I had already changed into Keens. You'll encounter snow starting at 2.7 miles, just when you enter Glacier Peak Wilderness. But the patches of snow are spotty, hard-packed, easily walked on even with Keens, and don't obscure the trail from view. Trekking poles are helpful, however, because the snow patches do get slippery as the day warms up. There are several blow-downs, most of which are easily climbed over, although you'll have to skirt around one or two.
As you exit the trees at 5.2 miles, you'll enter lower Spider Meadow. I think the view here is the best, even better than further along the trail, because you can appreciate the expansiveness and contrast between the rocky spires and the lush meadow. At approx. 6.5 miles, you'll reach Phelps Creek. The crossing is about calf-deep right now, not very wide, and the footing is sure, but as my little Black Lab Daphne really didn't want to swim across, we lunched on a rock and called it good. And BTW, this is a fantastic hike for dogs: lots of water, a wide soft trail, and an easy grade. And I saw a family with 3 small children backpacking out, all the kids under 10, it seemed, and all wearing happy grins.
I didn't see a soul on the hike in, although I passed over 40 weekend backpackers coming in when I was going out. No bugs, no flies, but no wildflowers yet either. Some bluebells, rare paintbrush and penstemon, some phlox in the forest; lots of Indian hellebore in the meadow. A lone marmot was whistling on the rocks, and two large does wandered across the meadow as I was hiking.
If I had 2-3 days in the middle of the week free, I would most definitely return to Phelps Creek/Spider Meadows and overnight it, exploring Spider Gap, Larch Mountain, and on the return, maybe Carne Mountain.
Time in: 2:40
Time out: 2:10
Distance round-trip, to Phelps Creek crossing: 13 miles
Elevation gain: approx. 1200 ft
Bring: NW Forest Pass, water sandals, trekking poles for water crossings and snow patches, ice axe if ascending to Spider Gap.
TO GET THERE:
Drive Highway 2 to Coles Corner (19.5 miles east of Stevens Pass summit, or 16 miles northwest of Leavenworth). Turn north onto Hwy 207, reset your odometer to zero, and head toward Lake Wenatchee. Pass the state park and the road to Plain/Leavenworth. At 4.3 miles, go right toward Chiwawa Loop Road. At 5.7 miles, turn left onto Chiwawa River Road (FR 62). Pavement ends at 16.8 miles, then it's a dusty, bumpy ride till a fork in the road at 28.1 miles. Take the right fork, Phelps Creek Road (FR 6211) which ascends 1.8 miles to Phelps Creek Trailhead (3500 ft).