Backpack - Ross Lake East Bank Trail – Desolation Peak

Ross Lake East Bank Trail – Desolation Peak

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5:00 AM at Tibbets Lot, 1675 Newport Way NW, Issaquah, WA
Although open to all club members over age 18, this trip is also part of the B3 backpacking Building Blocks series and eligible for B3 course credit.

Co-leader: Linda Kuramoto.

These notes are also on my website at [AlpineRover] Ross Lake East Bank Trail - Desolation Peak – 06-15-2013 to 06-18-2013.

Join us on a 4 day journey along the East Bank of Ross Lake. This is an easy trip with one very strenuous day hike. We will take each day at a slow to moderate pace.

  • Day 1, Water taxi to setup camp at Lightning Creek Camp (we will be camping here for two nights). Short afternoon day hike up Lightning Creek to the Three Fools Trail junction near the Deer Lick Cabin.
  • Day 2, Long strenuous day hike up Desolation Peak (13.6 miles round trip from camp, 4532 ft. elevation gain, 6102 ft. peak). Current trail report (Big Beaver, Little Beaver Creek, Desolation Peak, East Bank Ross Lake, Happy-Panther - Washington Trails Association) looks good for doing this (require foot traction, poles). Maximum 12-hour day, 7:30am - 7:30pm. Sunset at 8:30pm. This will be the hardest day, but will give the greatest return on views, etc. Should be the highlight of the trip. Participants are free to turnaround and head back to camp anytime along the route they choose.
  • Day 3, Break camp and depart late (about 10:30am) for an easy hike along the prettiest section of the East Bank Trail to Rainbow Point Camp, one of the most scenic hiker campsites in the North Cascades.
  • Day 4, Hike out 8.7 miles to Highway 20.


Date Time Trip Mileage Elevation Daily Mileage Daily Elevation Gain Hiking Time (hours) Notes
Depart Issaquah 15-Jun 5:00am
Arrive Marblemount Ranger Station 15-Jun 7:00am Obtain Backcountry Permits
Depart Milepost 134 on Highway 20 15-Jun 8:30am
Water Taxi to Lightning Creek 15-Jun 9:00am Total cost for 2 taxis: $210
Arrive Lightning Creek Camp 15-Jun 11:00am
Depart Day Hike to Deer Lick Cabin 15-Jun 12:00pm 0
Return to Lightning Creek Camp 15-Jun 6:30pm 7.6 7.6 2329 6.5
Depart Day Hike to Desolation Peak 16-Jun 7:30am 7.6 Peak Elevation: 6102 ft.
Return to Lightning Creek Camp 16-Jun 7:30pm 21.2 13.6 4532 12
Depart Lightning Creek Camp 17-Jun 10:30am 21.2
Arrive Rainbow Point Camp 17-Jun 4:00pm 28.5 7.3 1339 5.5
Depart Rainbow Point Camp 18-Jun 9:00am 28.5
Arrive Milepost 134 on Highway 20 18-Jun 3:00pm 37.2 8.7 1346 6

Mileages and elevation estimates from the Falcon Guide, Hiking the North Cascades, by Erik Molvar. 4 mile shuttle between trailheads

The day hike to Desolation Peak (6102 ft.) will be at high elevation, so be prepared for patches of snow along our route. (The Desolation Peak Trail is snow free to ~ 5300', where minimal patchy snow begins. Solid snow starts at ~ 5700' and becomes patchy the last 100' or so to the lookout.) Bring poles and foot traction.

Backcountry Permits are required and can be obtained free at the Marblemount Ranger Station (360-854-7245) on our way there. We need to arrive at the Marblemount Ranger Station at 7:00am on Saturday morning to get our permit. Bear canisters are not needed, since there is are bear vaults at both our campsites. We will shuttle one of our vehicles from milepost 134 on Highway 20 up to the East Bank TH at milepost 138, so that we have a vehicle there when we finish our hike. All this needs to be done prior to beginning our hike down to our water taxi at 8:30am.

I have booked two water taxis (206) 386-4437 under my name. I booked them to depart at 9:00am on June 15th. We need to show up with $210 cash at the dock. I'm estimating about 30 minutes to hike down the trail from Highway 20 to the dock. It is about a 40 minute water taxi to our destination, Lightning Creek Camp. Because the taxi has a maximum capacity of 6, we will need to take two trips. Hence it will take about 2 hours to taxi our entire party to Lightning Creek. Each participant should expect to reimburse me $26.25 for their share of the water taxi.

I will facilitate carpool arrangements to our meeting place in Issaquah the week prior to our trip. We may have to arrange pickups at people's homes to avoid leaving vehicles in P&Rs; over 48 hours.


  • Wilderness Trip Planner - North Cascades National Park
  • Ross Lake Resort Transportation / Rockport, Washington
  • Green Trails Ross Lake No. 16
  • Green Trails Jack Mountain No. 17
  • Green Trails Diablo Dam No. 48
  • Green Trails Mt Logan No. 49
  • Hiking the North Cascades, by Erik Molvar, No. 17 East Bank Trail, No. 19 Desolation Peak, and No. 20 Lightning Creek and Hozomeen Lake
  • Backpacking Washington: Overnight and Multiday Routes, by Craig Romano, no. 57 East Bank Trail and Desolation Peak
  • Backpacking Washington: From Volcanic Peaks to Rainforest Valleys, by Douglas Lorain, No 9 Western Pasayten - Ross Lake Loop

From the Topo route below 37.2 miles, 9546 ft. gain

Driving Directions The trail to the water taxi starts at milepost 134 on Highway 20 - GPS (48.727662,-121.062484). The East Bank Trailhead is at milepost 138 on Highway 20 - GPS (48.707672,-120.978026).

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials
Trip Reports