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Desolation Peak

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
48.7055, -120.9608 Map & Directions
Length
9.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
4400 feet
Highest Point
6102 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Hard

Highway 20 is closed from Ross Dam trailhead (milepost 134) to Early Winters (milepost 178) for the season.

The signature lookout. Photo from WTA archives Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Summits
  • Lakes
  • Ridges/passes

Trek a dry, strenuous trail to a famous fire lookout. Jack Kerouac stayed here as a lookout and used the experience to inspire Desolation Angels and Dharma Bums. The historic lookout is no longer accessible to the public, but you can still trek to the location and appreciate the view. Continue reading

Rating
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Hiking Desolation Peak

Trek a dry, strenuous trail to a famous fire lookout. Jack Kerouac stayed here as a lookout and used the experience to inspire Desolation Angels and Dharma Bums. The historic lookout is no longer accessible to the public, but you can still trek to the location and appreciate the view.

The trail begins on the East Bank Trail with views of Ross Lake. Two miles in, the trail turns east and begins climbing. You'll pass through cool forest and along a creek (fill up before you leave it, there's no more water available on this hike). The trees taper away into the subalpine vegetation. As the trees get disappear, the views improve! You can see Hozomeen Mountain in Canada to the north, the Pickets and Ross Lake to the west, and Jack Mountain to the south.

It's a challenging trek, climbing 4400 feet to the lookout perched on the top of the peak and at the northern edge of the country. You can see well into Canada from here.

Desolation Peak

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.7055, -120.9608 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

A $26 backcountry permit is required to camp overnight in North Cascades National Park. Permits must be picked up in person at one of the park's Wilderness Information Centers

Highway 20 is closed from Ross Dam trailhead (milepost 134) to Early Winters (milepost 178) for the season.

See weather forecast

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

From the south, drive on Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) to milepost 138. The trailhead is accessible also via Ross Lake Resort's water-taxi, which will drop you off at various point along the trail.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

North Cascades National Park

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Desolation Peak

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