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Castle Pass

North Cascades
47.3865, -121.3848
18.9 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain
5,400 feet
Highest Point
6,600 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty

Wildfire: Trail closed

  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Ridges/passes

Hiking Castle Pass

Castle Pass brings hikers through the Pasayten Wilderness as they travel from the PCT to North Cascades National Park. The trail takes you through big timber forests and meadows. However, the trail has not been maintained by the Forest Service since 2006 and is impassable to stock. There are many downed trees across the trail, and it is difficult to follow in some places, especially through the meadows. Come prepared with good navigation skills and tools.

Starting from the PCT at Castle Pass, follow the trail west. Climb along the ridge and notice Blizzard Peak behind you. Straddle the border of Whatcom and Okanogan Counties as you descend around a bend between Freezeout Mountain and Joker Mountain. The trail becomes hard to follow around Joker Mountain, and gain elevation quickly through a series of switchbacks. Watch for bears along the trail.

Crest the ridge and view Welcome Basin and Joker Mountain on the right. For those looking to climb Joker Mountain or explore the ridge more, an unmaintained trail branches off to the right at the top of the ridge. Freezeout Lake is also just over the side of the ridge. There are cairns that indicate the route down to it, but there is no official trail. The trail continues to be hard to follow as you travel west along the ridge. The meadows are lush, and many claim this is the most scenic part of the trip.

Descend the ridge in a long series of steep switchbacks that drop you 2100 feet in 2.2 miles. Once at the bottom, follow Three Fools Creek for the last leg of the trip, but does not cross it. There is a nice campsite at Little Fish Camp with views of Skagit Peak on the right and Spratt Mountain on the left. The Forest Service Trail ends abruptly just before the junction with the Lightning Creek Trail at the Wilderness boundary and you enter Ross Lake National Recreation Area. This means the trail becomes much nicer for the last .8 miles to the junction.

This trail is part of WTA's Lost Trails Campaign. Learn more about how we're saving lost trails across the state here.

Hike Description Written by
McKenzie Carlson, WTA Correspondent

Castle Pass

Map & Directions

Before You Go

Wildfire: Trail closed

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

No trailhead.
Access the trail from the PCT or Ross Lake Recreation Area. If accessing from Ross Lake, there is no fee. If parking for access to the Pasayten Wilderness, a Northwest Forest Pass is required.

More Hike Details


North Cascades

Castle Pass (#749)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Castle Pass

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