At Cascade Pass, the wow factor far exceeds the “ow” factor — perhaps no other trail in the state delivers as much reward for the effort. From the high peaks on either side of the pass, verdant meadows curve down to a saddle that offers sweeping views of nearby valleys, glaciers, mountains, and passing wildlife. Sedately climbing a little less than 1,800 feet in 3.6 miles, it is the perfect hike to show new hikers the extraordinary places their feet can take them.
The epic scenery begins before you even hit the trail. The unpaved section of Cascade River Road skirts massive old growth trees on the way to the circular parking lot tucked underneath Johannesburg Mountain, towering more than 4,000 feet overhead.
As you travel through the 30-some switchbacks that define the first 2.7 miles of trail, Johannesburg (a malapropism of the nearby Johnsberg mining claim) continues to make its presence felt, even when barely visible through the trees. On warm days, snow and ice from its hanging glaciers break loose and boom down the mountainside.
Once you round the final switchback, you have one mile to go, proceeding more or less straight for the pass. The trees grow steadily thinner as you reach open slopes and the pass comes into view. After crossing a long rockfield, the trail makes a few final bends and arrives at the pass, where a post marked for Stehekin points the way into the lush valley below. But don't be fooled — the little community of Stehekin lies at the head of Lake Chelan, nearly thirty miles from where you currently stand.
Cascade Pass offers views of several impressive peaks and glaciers. The ridge from Johannesburg Mountain connects to Mixup Peak and Magic Mountain, in between which lies the Cache Glacier. Back the way you came, the horizon is comprised largely of the glacier-dotted lower slopes and snowy summit arête of El Dorado Peak.
Nearer by, you may very well be treated to views of wildlife. In addition to the local population of marmots and pika, the occasional deer, mountain goat, or bear may wander through on the way to and from steeper, rockier places or the wildflower and blueberry fields just above and beyond the pass.
We humans have likewise been using Cascade Pass as a crossroads for thousands of years, and today it is still not at all the end of the trail. From here, the trail to Stehekin continues east through the abandoned mining claims of Horseshoe Basin. To the north, a trail continues to Sahale Arm. To the south, a backcountry high route known as the Ptarmigan Traverse marches up the slopes of Mixup Peak and disappears over the ridge.
One trip here, though, and you may rightfully conclude that it is a spectacular destination in its own right.
WTA Pro-Tip: Only you can fight chipmunk obesity! The steady stream of visitors to the pass has created a population of corpulent chipmunks. Respect Leave No Trace principles and guard your crumbs jealously to help the chipmunks return to a more natural diet.
- 7.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1,800 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,392 feet
The Cascade River Road is closed for the winter season
Hiking Cascade Pass
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 48.4754, -121.0751 Open in Google Maps