Used the loop from Craig Romano’s Backpacking Washington, going counterclockwise. Started on North Fork Skykomish trail, then took the Pass Creek trail to the junction with PCT. PCT from Pass Creek junction to Dishpan Gap. North Fork Skykomish trail from Dishpan Gap to TH.
Road to Trailhead: Pretty good shape. We did it in our 2001 Honda Civic and made it no problems. No time/speed records were made/broken.
Trail Conditions: Pass Creek trail was in good shape, with a few blowdowns. PCT was in great shape. North Fork Skykomish needs some work – lots of blowdowns. A mile or two below Dishpan Gap there is a mess of blowdowns from an avalanche – still a few feet of snow mixed in with timber. The entire mess is only about 50 feet or so wide, but you do lose sight of the trail heading down from the pass. Easy to pick trail up – just take note that trail runs along forest and slide Alder – don’t get sidetracked in the forest. Creek fords no problem at all – sandals were nice, but you could do it barefoot, if you don’t want the weight.
Camps: Stayed one night in camps at Pass Creek/PCT junction. Privy in good shape. Note that there was a youth trail crew there with about 15 people. Still a few sites, regardless, but not the quietest place to camp. By and large, they were well behaved after dark. Camp second night was at Lake Sally Ann. Privy was in good shape, albeit on the full side. Lots of sites – pretty popular place to camp. The sites laid out in Romano’s book are pretty spot on – we didn’t see the “more Creekside camps,” but were not looking that hard. Did not see any water sources at Dishpan Gap.
Bugs: Yes. Lots. The Cascade double-whammy of mosquitos at night/twilight and biting flies during the day was in full force. Afternoon at Lake Sally Ann was full of campers hanging out in their tents, swimming in the lake, or running from the lake to their tents.
Trail highlights: Nice old-growth forest on the North Fork trail – not the best we’ve hiked, but very nice and saw only one other party and a USFS worker on a Saturday in late July. Huckleberry flats in the mid-section of the North Fork trail – berries were not in season, but wow – that’s a lot of berry bushes and a beautiful wide-open ¼ - ½ mile of trail. I would be cautious walking through there in full berry season – probably full of bears, bear-hunters, and sugar-high, purple-tounged hikers. Also on North Fork – huge avalanche field from 5 – 10 years ago. Big, old-growth timber scattered like match sticks. Awesome force of mother nature on display. Thanks to USFS for the work to get the trail up and running after that force of nature. PCT between Cady Pass and Dishpan Gap – another wow – superb views and open meadows – worth the (relatively easy) schlep up out of the North Fork Skykomish drainage. Wildflowers starting to bloom, but a few weeks from peak.