Take an old prospector’s trail from valley forest and climb above tree-line to Copper Pass. In the vein of a prospector trail, this heads mostly straight up the hill with few switchbacks. Once at the pass, enjoy the views west to the heart of the North Cascades and take time for exploration in all directions.
From the trailhead (elevation 3620 feet) take a left onto the Twisp Pass Trail at the trail register. Ensure you do not take the trail to the right going to North Lake.
The impact of the 2018 Crescent Mountain Fire will be evident for the first 1.6 miles as the trail gradually climbs up the valley. The burned, dead trees offer little shade, so a morning start is advisable. On the plus side, fireweed and aster survived the fire, and most of the brush in the avalanche runouts was burned.
Along the way, pass the informal trail down to the Road’s End Campground, and enter the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness at 0.9 mile. The fire effects continue for another 0.7 miles, followed by a half-mile of old forest with welcome shade on those sunny days and avalanche runouts with brush canyons — soaking hikers after any rain or morning dew! Not to worry, the heat of the day and the climb to come will speed drying out.
The junction with the Copper Creek Trail may be unsigned. At the bridge over the North Fork Twisp River, 2.1 miles from the trailhead and at 4440 feet of elevation, turn right onto the Copper Creek Trail and stay right at the subsequent unsigned trail to the horse ford.
This is the trail less traveled, as most hikers and stock stay on the Twisp Pass Trail. The next 1.4 miles of trail to the North Fork Twisp River crossing is a gradual climb in the forest with sections of brushy avalanche areas. The trail quality varies from rooty and rocky to pleasant forest duff.
The North Fork Twisp River crossing can be difficult in June with the spring runoff. But just after the crossing, a large camp site at 4960 feet of elevation makes a good shady break spot. By this point, the gradual climb has gained 1300 feet in 3.5 miles. There's only 1.7 miles to go, but 1800 feet to climb! Obviously, the last third of the trip will be much steeper than the first two-thirds.
The next 0.8 mile of trail can be difficult with steep climbs and avalanche debris and logs. Along the way, take in a nice waterfall view, the log foundation of a prospector’s cabin with an exterior fireplace, and peek-a-boo views across the valley.
A somewhat rocky trail traverses and climbs through meadows of flowers and berries interspersed with subalpine trees for 0.6 miles, with ever improving views. The meadows change to heather with fewer trees just before an reaching an unsigned junction with an informal trail up the meadowed bench to the left. Turn right into the basin and cross the North Fork Twisp River a second time to start the final push to the pass. Note that this basin can hold snow into late July.
After trudging 0.3 mile up the rocky and somewhat eroded trail, reach Copper Pass at elevation 6720 feet. The views include Lincoln Butte and Crescent Mountain to the southeast and the Copper Creek Valley with peaks of the North Cascades National Park to the west.
In the fall, the larch in the vicinity of the pass provide beautiful fall color, with even more down to the southeast of the pass.
The myriad of informal trails to the north and south, both up and down, are indicative of the areas for further exploration, including loops on-trail and off-trail along with scrambles up ridges and peaks. Just be aware — the mountain goats, marmots, & pikas are watching you. Can you find them?