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Trip Report    

Backpack - North Fork Sauk River

This was a laid-back and fun backpack up a beautiful valley. It's a great early-season trip.

  • Road rough but passable
  • Forest Road 49 is somewhat rough, with two washout spots at mile 1 and mile  6. A medium- or high-clearance vehicle, like a Suburu Forester, can clear these well. Low-clearance vehicles may not be able to make one or both spots, though we had a Ford Escort vehicle that cleared both in both directions. We left a third car outside the Bedal Campground just down the Mountain Loop Highway from the turn-off to FR 49. (FR 49 is scheduled to close for repairs some time this summer.)

    The trail is predominantly soft dirt, a delight for the feet.

    The first stream crossing, at about mile 1, is over a packed rock bar that is slightly awash. A pole or poles are recommended for maintaining balance.

    Along the trail to Red Creek Camp there were a couple of medium-sized trees that needed to be clambered over. Another, smaller tree  is down between Red Creek and Mackinaw Camp, right in a stream, which added the complication of water underfoot to the tree crossing.

    The trail as far as Mackinaw Camp is snow-free, and apparently has been so for a while. The Rangers reported that snow begins on the switchbacks beyond Mackinaw Camp.

This one of the most beautiful valley walks in the Cascades. Wonderful ancient forest trees, particularly in the first couple of miles, but at least as far as Red Creek Camp. The trail gains elevation gradually along most of its length, rising only 1,000 feet in 6.7 miles.

The trailhead has some good parking, but when the road is in shape it tends to fill on the weekends—arrive early.

The forest is wonderful, with very large, very old western redcedar, Douglas fir, western hemlock and  Pacific silver fir along the trail. Somewhere around mile 1 there is a view of Sloan Peak. (Glacier Peak is not visible, not unless you were to gain the ridge top 3000 feet above, and travel the PCT to White Pass.)

Water was available on this June 1-2 trip at a half-dozen places between the trailhead and the Red Creek Camp.

The weather was great, temperature during the day in the 60s, possibly to the low 70s when in the sun; the evening was cool, the night cold.

We saw a baby ribbon snake, and a curious pika along the way.

Red Creek and Mackinaw camps both have a large amount of flat, open area for camping; both are very comfortable and have year-round running water at hand. Red Creek also has a pit toilet, well screened by the terrain. The old, decrepit shelter at the Mackinaw Camp is now collapsed.