I originally had a 4 night / 5 day permit for the Copper Ridge loop + Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes, but the Bear Creek fire derailed that a bit. Thankfully, we were still able to use the permit with a slightly adjusted itinerary. Instead, we set out on a 3 night / 4 day adventure through the North Cascades from Aug 28 - 31. (Hannegan TH > Graybeal > Tapto Lakes > Hanneagan Pass > TH)
Couple important things to note:
- Graybeal is currently dry. Trail reports on the Brush Creek section have been pretty sparse, but the last one I read mentioned a creek near Graybeal, so we powered through until camp... only to discover it was dry, which left half of our group running up the trail in search of water before dark. For anyone doing this route soon, I'd fill up with water at US Cabin camp so you aren't in the same position.
- After descending into the Tapto Lakes basin, we encountered our first bears. A mama and baby black bear were eating berries on the western side of the basin and eventually scaled the scree fields around Tapto Lake on their way out. Between Whatcom Pass and Graybeal, we ran into another bear right on the trail. As soon as it heard/saw us, it bolted into the brush so thankfully it was a positive encounter. We called out and talked loudly for our entire 4 day hike, so definitely make sure to be 'bear aware!' We also saw LOTS of bear scat along the Brush Creek trail (I'd guess around 10 or more piles?). My friend did a bit of research and although I know grizzlies are quite rare in the North Cascades, the size of the scat might point to something other than a black bear.
- Other beta: The trail was in excellent condition, so THANK YOU to all the volunteers, rangers, and anyone else who's poured effort into upkeep. It was easy to see how much work you've done and it's so appreciated :) Bugs were basically non-existent, which made the whole experience that much better. The trail from Whatcom Pass to Tapto Lakes is very steep, at one point turning into hand-over-foot climbing, but it's short and eventually lessens. You're reward is an incredible view of Mt Challenger, so well worth the effort!
Truly an unforgettable trip. I only hope we can make it back to see the Copper Ridge section next year!
Happy hiking 😊