Done as a one-way car shuttle hike, this route takes you past several lakes and streams, through meadows of wild flowers, patches of huckleberries, views of mountains and occasional wildlife such as marmots, black bears, pikas and mountain goats. And on a warm day you can take a cooling dip in Sheep Lake on your journey.
The trailhead for this hike is the same as for Sheep Lake, which begins at Chinook Pass. Begin at a parking lot on the east side of Highway 410 where there are restrooms and an informational kiosk. If the parking lot is full there is one across the highway to the south and one at the Tipsoo Lake trailhead which will add about a quarter mile to your trip.
From Chinook Pass, the trail takes you along and above Highway 410 on a mostly exposed slope before turning north for a short way through a forest of cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir to Sheep Lake's south shore. Round the lake's southeast side and cross a footbridge over a small inlet.
You will begin to gain a bit of elevation through meadows of lupine, magenta paintbrush, elephant head, tiger lily and columbine. As the trail steepens, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks and Mount St. Helens come into view as well as Sheep Lake far below. Closer in, the ridge's jagged spine includes the prominent squared off monolith of Cupolo Rock, a popular rock climber wall.
At 3.5 miles is Sourdough Gap, the entry to the ridge traverse above the Morse Creek Basin. From the Gap the trail descends about a hundred yards to a signed junction for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). You can enjoy a short side view to a great view of Crystal Lake and Mount Rainier by continuing past the junction for about a hundred feet and venturing down a boot path that crosses over a narrow ridge and drop down on a trail above Crystal Lake with Mount Rainier towering behind it. Now backtrack to the junction and follow the PCT northeast along the ridge with Placer Lake in sight below you.
After a little over 6 miles, you will reach the Bear Gap junction. From there take the Silver Creek Trail 1192 for a two mile descent that passes over over Silver Creek on a footbridge and a small falls next to an abandoned mine opening. The last section of trail takes you through the open fields of Bullion Basin to the Crystal Mountain parking lot.