Ranking: 3/5 Once on the ridge line, the views are spectacular! There are few places like the North Cascades that are as filled with peak after peak, stretching off into the distance, providing constant beautiful mountain top scenery. Also, being one of the least visited of all National Parks, solitude, especially the more miles you travel from trailheads, is almost certainly guaranteed. However, on this trail, in the further reaches, there has been no trail maintenance, and miles and miles spent below tree line in dense forest, obscures scenic vistas. Also, some of the back country camps are very rustic. A bonus, however, is that some of them, (away from the lakes) allow campfires, and on wet, soggy, days, this is a bonus.
Difficulty:7/10 Adding to the natural difficulty of the rugged uphill, is the fact that this is a long hike. The first day, you gain most of your elevation to reach Copper Lake, making that first day pretty epic. From there, you will beat brush along ridge line, and then it’s down, down, down, to the Chilliwack river. Several times, you will have to shed your boots to ford the river, and some of the river crossings are not evident. All this adds up over a 4 day period, and it’s no wonder that we saw no one for 3 days. This is a pretty rugged trail, and you will have to count yourself very lucky indeed if the weather cooperates all 4 days in a row…
Getting there: Follow I-5N to Bellingham, Washington, and take exit 255 to WA542 E/E Sunset Dr., and follow WA 542E for 22.8 miles. Turn right at Kendall, to continue following 542E/Mt. Baker Highway, and stay on this for 10.4 miles to Glacier, Washington. Continue out of town east for .5 miles, and you will see the Glacier Public Service Center on the right. Stop here to get your permit. From the Glacier Public Service Center, continue east on 542E for 12.5 miles, and turn left on Forest Service Road #32, the Hannegan Pass Road. (this will be the sign you are looking for) go another 5 miles on this road to its terminus, and the Hannegan Pass Trailhead. There is camping (primitive) and pit toilets there.Trailhead, trail #1052.
Maps: Several options here. You can use the Trails Illustrated Map, of the North Cascades, or for greater detail, we used My Topo maps, which you can create at any REI kiosk, or order online at http://www.mytopo.com, to create your own custom map. Also, you can use the Green Trails Map, Mt. Shuksan, #14.
Permits: You will need to stop at the Glacier Public Service Center and get a permit to travel on this trail, as it is in the North Cascades National Park, and you will also need to have a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead.
Copper Ridge Loop GPS Added 11/15/2012
The long anticipated wait is over, Greg and I head for the far reaches of the North Cascades, for a 4 day loop in the North Cascades National Park, very near the Canadian Border. According to the GPS unit, it will be about 35 miles total, but at times it felt more like 55…It rises up from the trail head to the high point on Copper Ridge, and snakes its way along the top of the ridge, then drops down to the Chilliwack river basin, to follow it back through old growth forest to the rejoining point of the loop at Boundary Camp, right on the park’s border. The weather was, well, not great for distant peak viewing, that I can tell you. Not so bad if you had webbed feet.
Right after we grab a few hours sleep on Wednesday, we hit the road, heading for a campground near the trailhead. We’ve scouted them out and it looks like Silver firs is the closest to the trailhead, and not far from the town of Glacier. We’ve never been there before, and there is little information, but we did see a restaurant that had its own web presence, so we figured, “hey, if they’re on the internet…” it might be a good possibility for dinner.
A little over 3 hours, and we’ve arrived at our destination, at Silver firs campground. The sites are along the banks of the North Fork Nooksack River. It’s a small campground, around 16 sites or so, and is reserveable. It’s one of the more primitive campgrounds we’ve stayed at, but it will do nicely for what we need. After securing our spot, we head for town for dinner, no longer able to ignore our grumbling stomachs. Back in town, we eat at the restaurant that we noticed on line, Grahams Restaurant, http://www.grahamsrestaurant.com/ . It’s an interesting place, with all kinds of knick-knacks to look at, and curiosities. No, I’m not talking about the people, simply the wall art and decorations.
Eating our fill, we stop at the attached store, get some goodies for later, and something for breakfast, then head back to camp. It’s a good thing we’ve erected a tarp around our fire pit, for soon the rain starts, and we’re sheltered from the raindrops, while still being able to feel the effects of our cozy fire.
“…Now, Greg sits with rapt attention, an instrument of doom clutched in his hand…”
After dark, Greg notices a furry creature darting around near our feet. He stays out of arms reach, until…The bag of chips we’ve opened and set on the bench between us becomes too much of a temptation for the little thief, and he scoots into our bag of chips to help himself. “HEY!” But it’s too late. He’s already running across the seat with his treasure firmly grasped in his mouth. The remains of the bag go in the fire, ruined. At least, we’ve still got our breakfast, and Doritos!!! Better put them in the car, or the little bugger will be in them, too. Now, Greg sits with rapt attention, an instrument of doom clutched in his hand, (small stick, just right for rapping little heads) ready to strike if the little offender returns. It’s not a long wait, for the lingering scent of potato chips must be like crack for the little rodent, and within minutes, he’s back for more. Only this time, Greg is waiting…”Thwack!” a quick swat, and the mouse is hurled from the bench, making a bee-line for the trees. That should persuade him to leave well enough alone…
Soon, it’s time to retreat from the rain to the tent, and listen to the rain as it pelts the rainfly. Several times during the night, we awoke to the sound of “scritch, scritch, scritch!” as if the mouse were coming back for round two, sounded like he was trying to dig his way in from the corner of the tent. Beautiful, just freakin’ beautiful. I can only hope that we won’t discover a new mousie door in the tent floor…