Backpack - Napeequa Valley via Little Giant Pass


Backpack - Napeequa Valley via Little Giant Pass

End-to-end hike of the mythical Napeequa Valley

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  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 20.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 8,300 ft

Little Giant Trailhead at 10:00am.

Carpools will be arranged.  Because this is a long multinight trip, leaving cars at a Park and Ride is not an option.

This trip was cancelled due to an insufficient number of signups.  Though at one point the trip had been full, as of the registration deadline only 2 people were still registered, which is below the Club minimum of 3.


(This is really a 4-day trip with an optional 5th day in case we are delayed due to high water at the final river crossing. The plan is to hike out Saturday afternoon but there is a chance we will be delayed until Sunday morning.)

The objective of this trip is to explore the entire length of fabled Napeequa Valley in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Images of Napeequa Valley capture the imagination of almost all who see them. Though famous for its beauty-from-a-distance, especially as viewed from Little Giant Pass (a popular day hike), Napeequa Valley itself is an uncommon destination because it is very difficult to get to and because it presents some unique challenges (described below). For those who are willing to pay the price of admission in terms of pre-trip training and day-of-trip effort this trip is an opportunity to hike most of the valley floor and check it out for ourselves. Hopefully it will be as beautiful up close as it is from afar. We will find out.

Two of the challenges of this route are bugs and a few river crossings that can range from trivial to impassable depending on water levels. To mitigate the risk of both we will go relatively late in the season, long after peak snow melt and, hopefully, after the bugs have gone too.

Our route will consist of the entire length of the Little Giant Trail (#1518) followed by the entire length of the Napeequa River Trail (#1562.1), both on Green Trails map #113 ("Holden, WA"). Because we're going in late season, water sources at higher elevations may be unreliable so we'll camp at Little Giant Creek on the way in and out.  This makes for short first and last days, but those days also include river fords and our drives to/from town so the overall itinerary is not as lopsided as it might seem.  Estimated daily stats (per Caltopo) are as follows:

  • Day 1: 2.25 miles, 1700' gain, 250' loss, 2 river fords
  • Day 2: 7.7 miles, 3600' gain, 2800' loss
  • Day 3: 7.7 miles, 2800' gain, 3600' loss
  • Day 4: 2.25 miles, 250' gain, 1700' loss, 2 river fords
  • Day 5 (only if needed): negligible distance and elevation.

Our pace will be moderate but the total distance and elevation, along with the technical challenges of the route, give this trip a backpack rating of "challenging".

Special Considerations: 

  • This trip starts immediately with a ford of the Chiwawa River. This crossing could be easy, difficult, or impossible. To put the odds in our favor we'll start early in the day and go late season.
  • This trip also ends with a ford of the Chiwawa River. Because we'll be making this crossing later in the day the water may be high due to daily snowmelt cycles. If so, we may need to camp near the river and cross it Sunday morning instead of Saturday afternoon. Hopefully we won't have to do that, but we should be prepared in case we do. The Trip Leader will bring an InReach device so we can communicate any delays to folks at home.
  • In addition to the two major fords of the Chiwawa river, the Green Trails map indicates a few more fords of smaller creeks. These are likely to be minor but may require changing footwear, etc.
  • Most of the route past Little Giant Pass is reported to be lightly used and poorly maintained. We may occasionally have trouble following the trail. We'll get there, but might make a few wrong guesses along the way.
  • The descent from Little Giant Pass is steep (2034' vertical feet in about 1.7 miles, on par with the Cable Line trail). This section of trail is reported to be poorly maintained and to have some brief sections with a bit of exposure.
  • Trip reports suggest that some sections of the Valley trail can be brushy.
  • Because we'll be camping in a verdant river valley, bugs could be a problem even in late season.

 Shared Gear 

To help reduce everyone's pack weight participants are encouraged to share water filters and stoves.  Ideally everyone will carry only one of either a stove or filter. Details TBD before trip. 

Regarding "Leaders Permission Required"

Because of its strenuousness and the special considerations described above, this trip requires that participants be in good condition and have previous multi-night backpacking experience.  Please provide the trip leader with a brief summary of your previous multi-night experience and recent conditioning activity. If your online Activity History includes some or all of this, it is sufficient to mention that instead.

 More Trail Info

Here is some supplemental background information about the route. It's optional info for those who may be curious.

Why the Little Giant route instead of the Boulder Pass route? Of the two hiking routes into the valley the route over Little Giant Pass (this trip) is shorter and has less total elevation gain/loss than the alternate route over Boulder Pass. The Little Giant route also traverses the entire length of the Valley whereas the Boulder Pass route traverses only the northern half of it. The downside is that the the Little Giant route is steeper and more technically challenging - its stats suggest that it is on par with the Old Mailbox Trail. Given that the goal is to see the entire length of Napeequa Valley, the Little Giant route seems to be the better choice.

Hey, the WTA website says the Little Giant trail is closed due to fire.  Whaddup?  The "Wildfire - Trail closed"  notice on the WTA website appears to be out of date. The trail was briefly closed during the 2016 fire season due to fires nearby, but the trail was unaffected and was reopened. Here is the USFS website showing current wildfire closures in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which includes the Glacier Peak Wilderness.



Napeequa Valley

  • Green Trails North Cascades Lake Chelan No. 114SX

    Green Trails Wenatchee Lake No. 145

    Green Trails Holden No. 113
  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

  • Your usual multi-night backpacking kit.
  • Bug repellant and head net.
  • Water shoes or other footwear for fording rivers.  Closed toe shoes (not sandals) are strongly recommended.
  • We will share stoves and water filters.   Details TBD before trip.
Trip Reports