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Backpack - Bald Eagle–Pilot Ridge Loop

This strenuous 25 mile loop with 5,700 feet of elevation gain traverses two spectacular ridges with views of Glacier Peak, includes a spectacular camp at Blue Lake, and provides easy access to a 6 mile roundtrip sidetrip through Dishpan Gap to Kodak Peak via the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as short sidetrips to June and Johnson Mountains. Total distance including sidetrips, about 31 miles.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Thu, Sep 1, 2016 — Sat, Sep 3, 2016
  • Foothills Backpacking Committee
  • Backpacking
  • 20-30 Somethings, Retired Rovers, Adults
  • Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 25.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 5,700 ft


Listed in 100 Classic Hikes in Washington, and rated 4 stars by Craig Romano in Backpacking Washington.   

Getting There

Drive the Mountain Loop Highway #530 north from Darrington or south from Rockport to just north of the Bedal Campground and turn east on the North Fork Sauk River road #49.  Drive to the North Fork Sauk River trailhead at the Sloan Creek Campground and park one car there.  Assuming we have a second car, we will drive it 2.5 miles to the Bald Eagle Mountain trailhead, elevation 2,400’.  All hiking distances assume we start at the Bald Eagle Mountain trailhead.

Trail Description

After hiking 2.5 miles on a converted road, we’ll enter the forest and hike a further 1.5 miles to Curry Gap 4,000’, and a junction with the Quartz Gap Trail.  We’ll continue left on Bald Eagle Trail No. 660, following the ridge, and enjoying the ridge-top views passing dry Long John Camp to Spring Camp, 9 miles from our trailhead, for our first night’s camp.

On day 2, we will continue near the summit of 5,946’ June Mountain where we will take the short sidetrip to the summit and views of Sloan, Monte Cristo, and Glacier Peaks.  At about 2.5 miles from our camp we will reach a fork.  The right trail leads to Dishpan Gap, but we will go left on Trail 652 which drops 500’ to Blue Lake at 5,500’ where we will set up our second night’s camp.  After setting up camp, we will hike with day packs along the Blue Lake high route (No. 652.1) 2 miles to Dishpan Gap, and follow the Pacific Crest Trail north about 1 mile to the unmarked side trail to Kodak Peak, which we will ascend to enjoy the spectacular views.  From Kodak Peak, we will return 3 miles to our camp at Blue Lake.  Total mileage on day 2, including the sidetrip to Kodak Peak, about 10 miles.

On Day 3, we will follow the spectacular trail along Pilot Ridge, including a possible short sidetrip about 1 mile from Blue Lake to 6,721’ Johnson Mountain.  We will then follow the trail back down the ridge, including a steep descent, and ford the North Fork Sauk River.  From here, we turn left and join the North Fork Sauk River Trail No. 649 about 1.9 miles back to our cars at the Sloan River Campground, 11.5 miles from Blue Lake.  After retrieving our second car at the Bald Eagle Mountain trailhead, we’ll head home.

 Leader permission is required, which you can obtain by sending an e-mail to the leader.

I expect low overnight temperatures will be in the 30s. Rain should be expected, and you should bring rain coat, rain pants, and pack cover and clothes that will keep you warm when wet (no cotton!). The trip is subject to change or cancellation if the predicted weather is unusually poor.

Conditioning:  This trip requires excellent conditioning.  We will average about 2 mph on the trail, including breaks.  You should be able to climb Mt. Si with a full backpack in 2.5 hours or less, and be able to repeat the climb on the next day.

Other gear notes:

1. Bear canisters are not required.  We will hang our food each night.   I plan to bring my Ursack. 

2. You should bring some method of water purification.

3. Bugs are certainly possible; bring bug repellant.

4. To reduce pack weight, you should consider sharing gear, especially stoves, cooking pots, water filters, and tents. About 2 weeks before the trip, I will send an E-mail to all. If you are interested in sharing any items, Reply All to this E-mail, describing gear you would like to provide for sharing or if you are interested in sharing another’s gear. Sharers should make arrangements directly with any interested people.


Bald Eagle–Pilot Ridge Loop

  • Green Trails Sloan Peak No. 111

    Green Trails Glacier Peak No. 112

    Green Trails Monte Cristo No. 143

    Green Trails Benchmark Mtn No. 144

    Green Trails Mountain Loop Highway No. 111SX
  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent 
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter or other means of water treatment
  • Bear canister, Ursack or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
Trip Reports