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Horseshoe Basin

North Cascades


North Cascades -- Pasayten
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12.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 1550 ft.
Highest Point: 7200 ft.


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WTA worked here: 2019

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

The drive to the trailhead may be long, but the destination is absolutely worth it.

At the easterly edge of the Pasayten Wilderness, almost touching the Canadian border, lies Horseshoe Basin; a truly unique and beautifully remote place.

Horseshoe Basin is one of the few places in the Lower 48 to contain arctic tundra and is home to bears, deer and bighorn sheep, if you know where to look. Allow plenty of time to explore Horseshoe Basin by camping at the trailhead, where primitive camping without a water source is available. Bring plenty of water with you.

From the trailhead, enter a forest still bearing scars from the 2006 Tripod Fire. Note how the trees are starting to silver and keep your eyes out wildlife, including porcupines and woodpeckers. Water is scarce along this section of trail and in the heat of summer this area can be a scorcher due to the lack of tree cover.

At 1.5 miles cross a tributary of Clutch Creek, the only consistent water source until Horseshoe Basin. This is your last chance to refill water bottles, so take the time to do so here. Continue on until the trail finally breaks out of the burned area about three miles from the trailhead. Here, emerald green hillsides take over the vista in front of you, and scenic Sunny Pass beckons.

Hike steadily uphill and reach the inviting pass at 4.8 miles. Sunny Pass is the perfect place for a picnic lunch. As you enjoy a snack, enjoy your first sight of Horseshoe Basin, an area that begs further exploration. On your way to the basin, you’ll see increasing amounts of subalpine fir trees, trickling creeks and bright wildflowers.

At six miles you arrive at your destination; sublime Horseshoe Basin. Take in the expansiveness of the area. Gawking is allowed, even encouraged. If you’re still feeling sprightly, head uphill as far as you’d like for increasingly expansive vistas – go far enough and you can touch Canada!

WTA Pro Tip: Before you head into the vast wilderness, fill up at Whistler's Family Restaurant in Tonasket.


Horseshoe Basin

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.9086, -119.9041 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- Pasayten

Boundary Trail (#533)

Colville National Forest, Tonasket Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Backpacking Washington (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Horseshoe Basin No. 21

Getting There

From Tonasket, take a left onto the Loomis Highway and drive 16 miles to Loomis. Here, make a right onto County Road 9425, and after 2 miles make a left onto Forest Road 39. This is signed as Toats Coulee Road at first. Stay on FR 39 for about 14 miles, looking for a spur road signed for the Irongate Trailhead. Be warned, this road is quite rough -- high clearance vehicles are necessary to negotiate it. Continue on the spur road for nearly six miles until you arrive at the trailhead.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Horseshoe Basin

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