Two dads had one last weekend this season to do an overnight backpacking trip. The weather people promised that it would a bit more clear to the east. One of us hadn't seen the Napeequa valley yet, and I had not seen the Lyman Lakes yet, so we decided to attempt Napeequa/Lyman Lakes as an overnight with two days of about 20 miles. We had a great time and totally lucked out with the weather. For the highlights of the trip (the descent into the Napeequa valley and the Lyman Lakes) we had mostly clear weather.
It was mostly fairly quiet: between the Little Giant trailhead and High Pass we saw one party camped at the Napeequa River. Approaching Buck Creek Pass we met one hiker, and then between Buck Creek Pass and Lyman Lakes various backpacking parties (maybe about 5 or 6). That part of the loop is evidently much more busy. We did notice some poor behavior, sadly. Most disgusting was that between High Pass and Buck Creek Pass there were human feces and a pile of toilet paper right next to the trail, without any attempt to bury or even hide. This was just a baffling thing to find in such a remote place. Shame on whoever did that. We carried the toilet paper out and removed the feces. At Miners Creek we found a campfire that was too warm in our opinion and we dumped our water on it. Buck Creek Pass seemed messy with garbage in campsites and more rowdy people around. Not a place for a lovely quiet wilderness camp experience.
Details per section of the hike ...
Trailhead to Little Giant Pass
The river was pretty low (1-2 feet). We crossed in sandals and stashed them on the other side to pick up from the car. The trail up is pretty good with a handful of easy blowdowns. Good berries closer to the pass. It was cloudy, so not too great for photos.
Little Giant Pass to end of Napeequa Valley
The trail is rough, and if you're either clumsy or unlucky a misstep can be bad. I wouldn't like to do it with less experienced hikers, heavy packs, or children. It's hard to clearly describe how bad it is, because it really depends on your own comfort level.
We were extremely lucky that it cleared up exactly while we were descending into the valley (and got cloudy virtually immediately after). I selected only a fraction of the photos I took on the decent, but there are still too many ;).
The valley trail is not bad, but I remember it being much more muddy earlier in the year.
Napeequa Valley to High Pass
After crossing the creek below the waterfall, the trail up into the bushes was fairly easy to find.
There is no clear continuous bootpath up to High Pass, but it doesn't really matter much. We staid on the south side of the creek. Last time I staid north, and I think south was easier.
We found most delicious blueberries here.
High Pass to Buck Creek Pass and Small Creek campsite
At High Pass the more challenging snowfield is gone, but it was replaced with fresh snow. This section was a bit unpleasant, but not particularly dangerous. I imagine it will get harder with a few inches more snow.
The continuation to Buck Creek Pass is a bit sketchy in places. I wouldn't take children or unlucky people here.
We intended to camp at the sheep camp on Middle Ridge, but couldn't quite make it, and we camped at Small Creek instead. There is a fine number of campsites there, but no views.
Small Creek campsite to Cloudy Pass
To our surprise, it was actually clear in the morning, so we headed out quickly trying to get some views. Middle Ridge is entirely forested though, so we only got partial views of Glacier Peak. We found some good views on the final approach to Suiattle Pass.
Cloudy Pass has outstanding views, but it was a bit too cloudy when we were there for good photos.
Cloudy Pass to Spider Gap
Lyman Lakes. What a horrible place! We were extremely lucky with clearing skies while we were walking around the lakes.
Spider Gap to car
The glacier/snowfield was covered in fresh snow, but descending was pretty easy with the microspikes we brought. Some of the exposed old snow was also fine with spikes.
We really hoped to find a ride back to the Little Giant Pass trailhead, but it was already late in the day, so chances were low. Fortunately, we saw a couple of guys descending the glacier before us, and we hurried up to catch up with them. They were surprisingly fast though and we only met them close to the trailhead. They were very super friendly, and drove us down to the car while I petted one of their lovely dogs on the backseat.
At the Spider Meadows trailhead we saw a hunter who had shot a deer, the only hunter we saw our entire trip. This was surprising to me given my earlier experience in the area.