Car Wash Falls, a waterfall that went right over the old road up the Stehekin valley, provided a nice rinse for cars when it was running low, but a crushing tumult of water when levels were high. In 2003, these falls pounded down on the road so hard it blasted a section of it out into the river, and the park service elected to leave the road washed out, moving all hikers onto a trail bypass on the Pacific Crest Trail towards Bridge Creek.
Hikers have always been able to bypass this road section, even when it was an option to drive into the upper valley. Now, this section is a must-do in order to access most trails in the upper valley.
Beginning from High Bridge, hike along the road on a somewhat steep grade for a mile past Tumwater Camp. After another mile, cross the Stehekin River on a large bridge and hop onto the PCT northbound for Bridge Creek. The trail rolls moderately through beautiful forest and one remarkable section of old burn vibrant with magenta fireweed almost five feet tall. Soon though, it plunges back into dark forest, becoming slightly more rooty and rugged for another three miles until you arrive at Bridge Creek Camp.
This campground is open to horses, hikers, and groups, and a backcountry camping permit is required to stay overnight here. Please make arrangements through North Cascades National Park complex. The Pacific Crest Trail now rejoins the old roadbed for a time, and you’ll have the chance to walk side-by-side with your hiking partner — if you have one — as you make your way down the old road, which has been remarkably well preserved in the years since the washout.
Just up the road from Bridge Creek, a trail splits off. This is the Pacific Crest Trail as it continues north to Rainy Pass and eventually the trail’s endpoint in Manning Park, Canada. Making a left turn, follow the road and shortly arrive at the Goode Ridge trailhead. This trail to a former lookout tower is a burner, shooting up 4400 feet in just 5 miles, but the panorama from the summit is stunning.
Continue another three miles down the old road, enjoying periodic glimpses of the river. A trailhead 2.7 miles from the Goode Ridge trail is for Park Creek Pass, an epic jaunt along Park Creek and up into a wide, fairytale pass. This is another way to exit the valley; follow the Park Creek Pass trail long enough and you’ll wind up on Highway 20!
A few hundred yards up the road from Park Creek Pass is Flat Creek Camp and its accompanying trail. The campground here is quite large, but can only accommodates two large groups. Again, be sure to make arrangements with the National Park Service if you plan on staying here overnight.
From Flat Creek, it’s 3.7 miles more road walking before arriving at the end of the road. Cottonwood Camp is a large camp area that may be set up for the Stehekin Valley Tent-to-Tent trips.
From here, the road becomes an honest to goodness trail, which provides access to a handful of other campgrounds, Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm, Horseshoe Basin, and eventually, Highway 20.
WTA Pro Tip: Many trails along the Stehekin River Road can also be accessed from Highway 20. Consider making your visit to Stehekin a one-way trip – arrive via ferry and make arrangements to hike out and get picked up on the other side. Even better, consider starting from a Highway 20 trailhead and hiking into Stehekin – the Stehekin Pastry Company is a must-stop for hikers, particularly for those of you putting in lots of miles.
Upper Stehekin Valley Road Trail
- 11.4 miles, one-way
- Elevation Gain
- 1100 feet
- Highest Point
- 2400 feet
Hiking Upper Stehekin Valley Road Trail
Upper Stehekin Valley Road Trail
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 48.3807, -120.8403 Open in Google Maps