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Home Go Hiking Trip Reports Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River, Glacier Peak Circumnavigation
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My partner and I just finished up a 5-day loop around Glacier Peak. It was a wild ride full of jaw-dropping views and a whole lot of Type 2 Fun. We were on a pretty ambitious schedule, and my knees still ache as I write this. 

Here’s a breakdown of our schedule:

Day 1: Indian Creek to PCT/Foam Creek Junction (14.6 miles)
Day 2: PCT from Foam Creek Junction to Mica Lake (19 miles)
Day 3: PCT from Mica Lake to Suiattle River/Image Lake Junction (22 miles)
Day 4: Image Lake Junction to Buck Creek Trailhead (26 miles)
Day 5: Buck Creek Trailhead to car (26 miles)

Indian Creek: YIKES. Someone needs to get this trail on life support. This is probably one of the worst (yet still hikeable) trails I have ever been on. At around 2 miles, the bridge that crosses Indian Creek is badly damaged due to winter storms. There is no more decking to walk over, but one of the bridge stringers is still in place and I felt very comfortable walking across it — though I definitely would not recommend it for families with young kids. Miles 2-5 are in varying states of maintenance, but overall okay aside from the rampant mosquitos. Miles 5-11 are where everything goes downhill and you begin to question why you even like hiking. The brush is nearly constant, with only small reprieves when you reach a patch of forest. Most of the brush was as tall as me, and occasionally towered over me. Miraculously, we never actually lost the trail, but I was so beat up by the time we reached the PCT junction. My legs were covered in cuts and bumps from the sticker bushes, woody branches and nettles lining the trail, and my arms were exhausted from swimming through the brush.

This trail could really, really use some love. It is such a vital route in the Glacier Peak circumnavigation and it is sad to see it in such disrepair. I really hope a bridge replacement is in the cards and that a few trail crews can make their way out here next year... I fear this trail will be all but lost in a few years if it doesn’t see some work.

Pacific Crest Trail: The PCT through the Glacier Peak Wilderness is wonderful. Incredible views of Glacier Peak, endless wildflower meadows and dozens upon dozens of marmots. 

A few things to note: there was one sketchy patch of snow to traverse just north of Fire Creek Pass. We hiked straight on through it and followed the path of well-worn footprints, but other folks opted to climb over and around the snow. Mica Lake is still about 90% iced over. The trail becomes rather brushy and unpleasant right around the Milk Creek junction. This area is very remote and difficult for trail crews to reach, so it’s not too surprising that the trail is in such a poor condition. Out of the 350+ miles of PCT I’ve hiked in Washington, this section is by far the worst (but still pales in comparison to Indian Creek). 

Image Lake via Miners Ridge: This was far and away the most well-maintained section of trail we hiked on during our trip. The switchbacks leading up to the lookout from the Suiattle are just superb. The grade is incredible, the tread is lovely, and I can’t remember a single downed tree. It was a lovely way to start the morning! We hiked this section on a cloudy day, so we missed out on Glacier Peak views, but Image Lake is beautiful regardless, and the meadows just north of the lake are stunning with or without sunshine. 

Buck Creek Pass: Our entire time along Buck Creek was spent in the clouds and occasional rain -- so no big mountain views for us. Originally, we had planned to take the Cloudy Pass/Lyman Lakes/Spider Gap route back south, but when the icky weather rolled in, we opted for Buck Creek instead. Going south from the PCT junction, this trail has a smattering of downed trees and is a little worse for wear. The grade is rather steep towards the end, but you do eventually pop out into some lovely meadows (I’m sure the views here are great in the sunshine, too). It was wet and miserable while we were up top, so we tried to make it back down to lower elevations as quickly as we could. A large swath of the Buck Creek trail is through a burn area, which I wasn’t really expecting. It was a bit stormy and windy while we hiked through, which is not my fav weather for burn zone hiking, but the abundant huckleberries were a nice distraction.

Little Giant Pass/Napeequa River: This trail is a stunner, but it really makes you work for those views. Immediately after the trailhead sign, you will need to ford the Chiwawa River. I am rather short (5’2”) and I had no problem with it. The water came up to my mid thigh and was slow moving and gentle. From here, you will hike entirely uphill with varying degrees of steepness. The first mile or two is fairly well graded and quite shaded with ripe berries. 

The trail coming down into Napeequa Valley from the top of Little Giant Pass is listed as “Unmaintained” by the Forest Service, but I thought it was in pretty decent shape. It is a steep descent with rocky and uneven tread, but the trail is easy to follow and the views are just breathtaking the whole way down. Through the valley itself, the trail gets a little more obscured but is still manageable. At some point, you will need to ford the Napeequa River which is another deep yet calm river. Where we crossed, the water came up over my hips and I wasn’t thrilled with the speed of the current. I made it (obviously), but I would recommend spending a bit more time down here searching for the safest way across. 

Boulder Creek/Pass: After the Napeequa crossing, the trail up and over Boulder Pass is once again listed as “Maintained”. This trail was in much better shape than Little Giant and had a great grade. There were a few small sections of brush but nothing too bad. There was also plenty of water along the ascent, so no need to carry water for too long. Boulder Pass itself has nice views, but it really can’t compare with the views from Little Giant Pass. If you’re going to hike to one of them — I would absolutely recommend Little Giant.

White River: I can only attest to the first 4 miles of the White River Trail (up until the turnoff with Boulder Creek), but it was surprisingly well maintained. The mosquitoes here are miserable, and there wasn’t really much to see, so I can’t say I would recommend a stop here unless you plan on connecting it with Boulder Pass.

Comments

Loren Drummond on Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River, Glacier Peak Circumnavigation

HOLY COW. What a burly itinerary. Sounds like an incredible trip though. Someday...I will do this loop. Or at least the best pieces of it. Until then, thanks for letting me hike it virtually and thanks for the excellent trail conditions and river ford detail for shorter humans.

Posted by:


Loren Drummond on Aug 10, 2020 10:50 AM

Posted by:


crispy44444 on Aug 11, 2020 04:54 PM

Rachel Wendling on Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River, Glacier Peak Circumnavigation

Hi there! I do not believe there are any water sources at the pass itself, but there is another campsite about a mile south of the pass that is right off of Buck Creek.

Posted by:


Rachel Wendling on Aug 14, 2020 09:34 AM

Water

When you get to the top of buck creek pass there is water at sheep camp. This is an area hardly anyone goes as the crest over. It’s amazing and lots of water and one of the best views of Glacier

Posted by:


Wenatcheehiker on Aug 25, 2020 10:54 AM

Wenatcheehiker on Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River, Glacier Peak Circumnavigation

Great report. we did that route around same time. I would recommend high pass. I’m curious why you didn’t go thru the amazing high pass area and drop into the Napeequa valley to go over boulder pass?

Posted by:


Wenatcheehiker on Aug 25, 2020 10:59 AM

Rachel Wendling on Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River, Glacier Peak Circumnavigation

We didn't want to. Our original plan had been to drop down to Lyman Lakes from Cloudy Pass and go up and over Spider Gap, which is an area we've always wanted to visit. But when the rain storm rolled in, we opted for Buck Creek instead since we knew we weren't going to get any views that day anyway.

Posted by:


Rachel Wendling on Aug 25, 2020 12:34 PM