This is a long distance day hike that includes unmaintained trails. To hike this route, you should be an experienced route finder willing to hike trails less traveled, and prepared for a lonely hike. You may need crampons and ice axe.
Why go? To condition yourself for long miles with significant elevation changes, to experience the difficulty of the Cascade Crest Trail before there was a Kendall Katwalk, or just to see new views.
Begin by hiking to Snow Lake. Continue past the camps on the east side of the lake, and at 3.3 miles and 4100 feet, encounter a junction with signs to Gem Lake (left) and Middle Fork Road (right). Go right, on what is more accurately the Rock Creek Trail. The trail quickly narrows and becomes rockier, while puddles and squishy mudholes may linger even in dry weather. The trail drops steadily and steeply across talus and through forest for 3.5 miles and almost 3400 feet. Along the way is a seldom-seen view of Rock Creek, tumbling down a lengthy rock face after its exit from Snow Lake.
At 6.8 miles, arrive at a junction with the Middle Fork Trail #1003 and take a right. This section of trail follows an old road, gaining less than 150 feet of elevation over the next three miles. Water is available between miles seven and eight of your hike, but note that this may be the last easily available water for several miles. Camping is possible near Thunder Creek at 7.8 miles.
The key to successfully completing hike is finding the faint, unsigned trail that leaves the Middle Fork Trail for Red Pass. Nine miles into your hike, you'll find a prominent three-log crossing of Burntboot Creek, which leads to Goldmyer Hot Springs property. As you stand facing this crossing, a tree behind you is signed for “Burntboot Creek”. To your right is what appears to be a faint trail along the top of a large log that is nearly rotted away. This is the trail you will follow to Red Mountain. It meanders along the creek, then drifts away. At 400 feet from the Burntboot sign is proof that you are on the right trail: two signs on a tree: one forbidding bicycles and the other reading “Trail not maintained beyond this point”.
Using route-finding skills, follow the trail as it climbs moderately steeply through lovely old growth forest. Negotiate switchbacks and a few blowdowns as you gain 3500 feet in just over 4.5 miles. Enjoy the shade for the first two miles, then break out into views seldom seen.
At 12 miles from the Snow Lake trailhead, crest over a small pass to an intimidating view of the steep chute leading up to Red Pass. When the snow is melted, switchbacks make this an easy ascent. Earlier, crampons and ice axe may be needed, and a real avalanche danger exists. Know conditions before you go and don't be afraid to turn around if conditions become dangerous.
At Red Pass, located at 12.4 miles and 5337 feet, climb left along the ridge top to remain on the Red Pass - Commonwealth Basin Trail. Follow the rocky trail down to the plateau holding Red Pond, then left. Drop to 3875 feet, where your next water stop is available, just under 14 miles from your starting point.
At 14.3 miles, go right, where a broken sign on a tree reads “Abandoned”. At 14.5 miles, rock-hop or ford Commonwealth Creek, then cross again on a log bridge at 14.7 miles. At 14.9 miles, take the short side trail to a worthwhile view of a waterfall. Continue down the narrow and brushy trail to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail, then go right the final 100 yards to arrive at the Snoqualmie Pass trailhead. To close the loop, walk pavement downhill to Alpental Road, then right to retrace the driving route to the Alpental parking lot, a total of 1.5 pavement miles.
Rock Creek - Red Pass Loop
- 17.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 5,600 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,400 feet
Hiking Rock Creek - Red Pass Loop
Rock Creek - Red Pass Loop
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.4454, -121.4235 Open in Google Maps