White Pass, Blue Lake & Pilot Ridge Loop

This strenuous 29.1 mile loop, 7.6 miles of it on the Pacific Crest Trail, with 5,300 feet of elevation gain includes broad flower fields and ridges with panoramic views of Glacier Peak and surrounding peaks, as well as camps by a picturesque high lake, and old-growth forest at the beginning and end. Destinations include White Pass, Kodak Peak, Meander Meadows, Dishpan Gap, Blue Lake, Johnson Mountain and Pilot Ridge.

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 there.

ON THE TRAIL

The North Fork Sauk River trail starts gently in fantastic old growth forest.  Walk 1.9 miles to a clearing with a signpost reading "Pilot Ridge Trail 652" -- this is your return trail.  Continue straight for another 3.3 miles to another clearing with good camping around a ramshackle old shelter by the river.  Shortly beyond the shelter the trail turns uphill and switchbacks steeply up before traversing the flower meadow slope.  In 2.8 miles from the shelter, 8.2 miles from the trailhead, the trail joins the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) (6,000 ft).  From here turn right and walk 0.7 miles to White Pass and a trail that drops off the edge to the right down to a bench with several fantastic camp spots (water can be just a trickle below the camps).

If daylight allows a bit of exploring, drop gear at the camps and head back up the PCT 2.4 miles to Red Pass (6,500 ft) and expansive views down the White Chuck River valley and across to the White Chuck Glacier and Suiattle Glacier on the southern flanks of Glacier Peak.  Boot paths lead up a small knoll to the south and also up Portal Peak to the north of the pass.  The northbound Pacific Crest Trail heads down the White Chuck River from Red Pass (see Pacific Crest Trail:  Suiattle River to Red Pass & White Pass).  Return to camp below White Pass and enjoy a fantastic sunset over the peaks to the south and west.

From White Pass, continue south on the PCT for 2.3 miles in open flower-filled meadow to Reflection Pond and shortly beyond it the junction with the White River Trail, No. 1507.  Two miles further on is Indian Pass (5,000 ft) and the junction with the Indian Creek trail, and one mile beyond at 5,700 ft the PCT turns abruptly west at a junction with the unmaintained Wenatchee Ridge Trail, No. 1544, passing under 6121-foot Kodak Peak.  Find boot paths in the huckleberry bushes that take you up to the top of Kodak for not-to-be-missed panoramas of Glacier Peak and the surrounding mountains.

About 0.7 miles from the Wenatchee Ridge Trail junction and the top of Meander Meadow, reach a junction with the Little Wenatchee River Trail, No. 1525.  Continue on the PCT another 0.9 miles to a four-way crossroads at Dishpan Gap. From here the PCT continues south toward Lake Sally Ann and Cady Pass.  This route turns north on the June Mountain Trail, No. 650.  

At ~0.8 miles from Dishpan Gap, the Blue Lake "high route" (Trail No. 652.1) forks off to the right from the main trail and climbs steeply past some of the best views of Glacier Peak in the area, finally switchbacking steeply on a very rocky slope to the top of a knife edge ridge at 6,500 feet overlooking Blue Lake far below.  Even steeper but still well defined rocky switchbacks head down from the ridge to Blue Lake (5,500 ft) and excellent camps on the west shore, about 1.9 miles from Dishpan Gap.

From Blue Lake, make a long traverse to the west, then wind back east.  In 1 mile from the lake, a boot path heads a short distance to the top of 6,721-foot Johnson Mountain.  For the next 4.5 miles the trail traverses Pilot Ridge along meadows with great views, into and back out of forest, up and down humps and dips, before committing to a steady steep drop in forest back to the North Fork Sauk River trail 9 miles from Blue Lake.  Just before rejoining the North Fork Sauk river trail, it is necessary to negotiate a tangle of flood debris and cross the river on large logs.  Once reaching the North Fork Sauk River trail, it is a straightforward 1.9 mile walk through old growth forest back to the trailhead.

PCT MILES

  • North Fork Sauk River trail jct to White Pass:  0.7 miles
  • White Pass to Red Pass:  2.4 miles
  • White Pass to White River trail junction:  2.3 miles
  • White River Trail junction to Indian Creek trail junction:  2 miles
  • Indian Creek trail junction to Kodak Peak and Little Wenatchee River trail:  1.7 miles
  • Little Wenatchee River trail to Dishpan Gap: 0.9 miles

Notes

  • Another way to finish this loop is to take the Bald Eagle Trail (No. 650) back to Forest Road 49. This option involves 2.5 miles of walking on a forest road or setting up a short car shuttle. This option is 38 miles and 8,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Difficulty: Very Strenuous
  • Length: 29.1 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 7,200 ft
  • 6,721 ft
Map
  • Green Trails Glacier Peak No. 112
  • Green Trails Benchmark Mtn No. 144
  • Green Trails Sloan Peak No. 111
  • Green Trails Monte Cristo No. 143
  • Green Trails Mountain Loop Highway No. 111SX
  • Trails Illustrated North Cascades National Park
Activities

Upcoming Activities

There are no activities scheduled at this location.

Trip Reports
Titles

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • White Pass, Blue Lake & Bald Eagle Loop
Resources

There are no resources for this route/place. Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.