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|Trip Reports The Trip Reports forum is for backpackers to share their actual (not links to) trip reports and/or journal entries for their wilderness backpacking and day-hiking trips. Please include photos and information regarding what worked (e.g. gear) and what didn't.|
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Copper Ridge Loops - North Cascades, WA.
Trail Name: Copper Ridge Loop / North Cascades Loops
Distance: 34.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 10,800
Date of Trip: Sep 1-3, 2006
Permit Info & Directions
On the first day we left the car park (3100′) and took the gentle path along Ruth Creek towards the pass. Within the first 10 minutes of hiking, you are rewarded with incredible views and waterfall cascading down the mountain side. It’s like something out of a Patagonia catalog.
After about a mile, the trail takes a few switch backs before starting a steepening ascent to Hannegan Camp. After the camp, the trail continues up a few more switch backs and into a more open meadow area of heather and wild flowers, making yet more switch backs until eventually reaching Hannegan Pass, 4mi (5100′).
After lunch, we started down a series of switch backs that leads into the Chilliwack River Valley where Boundary Camp is located.
After filling our bottles, we wandered across the rocks towards Boundary Camp and discovered fresh mountain blueberries! They were everywhere! We squatted for 20 minutes and picked and ate and picked and ate, they were plump, juicy and delicious.
A hundred yards later and we are at Boundary Camp (5mi, 4400′). Boundary is a popular first stop for people packing heavy loads, so they can day-hike to the ridge.
With many of the camp sites in this area, there are either bear-poles, bear-boxes or big-trees to offer food protection from bears. Black bears are common in the area. We didn’t see any ourselves on this trip, but heard plenty of stories from other hikers.
Here’s a picture of the blueberries and a bear-pole at boundary camp:
At boundary camp, we took a left turn and started the slow long climb out of the basin up onto the ridge. There were many switchbacks, but as the climb progresses there were a series of ever-improving views. Eventually the trail pops out onto a beautiful ridge-top meadow and the gardens of Copper Ridge.
The ridge rolls up and down through meadows of delicate flowers and the views become overwhelming. They are quite breath taking at this point, and it felt like we had entered another world. There were peaks all around us: the Picket Range, Mt. Shuksan, Bear Mountain and in the distance are peaks of Canada.
After another mile or so of wandering with ups and downs we eventually reached Silesia Camp, (8.2mi, 5689′). Just beyond is a junction that drops down a half-mile to Egg Lake.
If you are thinking of camping in this area, go for Silesia. The views are outstanding from there. But they come with a price. There’s no water, and you’ll have to trek all the way down to egg lake to get your supplies for the evening. A small price to pay.
There are two camp spots at Silesia, the one on the right is very exposed and windy and night - but has the killer views. The one on the left is more tucked into the trees. There is a shared bear-pole here also for easy hanging.
We hung out at Silesia for a while and rested our feet, and munched on “second breakfast”. Or at least ate our other PB&J sandwich and cracked open a bag of trail mix.
We left Silesia and continued along the ridge passing egg lake.
We wandered the ridge for another mile or so, with sweeping views still all around us. Theresa got inspired by the meadows once in a while and broke out into choruses from the sound of music.
After a while, we caught a glimpse of the lookout cabin. It was up high on a peak that seemed like a long climb. This was the highest point of our trip. I love rangers huts. With renewed vigor to check out the hut, we barreled up the 1000′ ft climb in no time at all, arriving at Copper Mountain Lookout, (10.2mi, 6260′).
As we arrived, we were greeted by a few marmots hanging out on the rocks, but other than their occasional whistle had complete solitude while we hung out for a good hour.
It’s hard to describe how breath taking the views were from the high point. Sweeping 360 degree panoramic views of amazing rugged peaks in the cascade range. Snowy Mt. Baker out in all her glory and the icy ridges of Canada to the north. Below the deep forested valley, with the Chilliwack River rushing through it. Apart from the hut, no other man-made thing in site.
After hanging at the look out for a while, we started the decent into Copper Lake, (11.4mi, 6075′).
It made for a long day, and the last mile seemed to take forever, however as the lake finally appeared the views were worth it.
We dropped in and setup camp. There is a bear-box for food storage at Copper Lake and I have to say, an outdoor bathroom with the best morning view around!
We setup the cloudburst tarpent in minutes and chilled out at the lake. We had grand plans to go swimming, but the water was cold and the sun was already behind the ridge, so freeze-dried beef stew it was!
We were tucked up in bed by 8pm and ready for the next day.
We packed out and began a gentle stroll along the meadowy ridge for another 4 miles. The ridge had occasional ups and downs but on the most part was fairly flat. The views were still incredible, but slowly started to diminish and get hidden between groups of trees.
Eventually the trail crosses a boulder field and then a second boulder field with snow and ice remnants even in early September. Shortly after the boulder field, the trail starts down into a series of switch backs.
The 3.5 mile downhill was brutal on the knees, but it was hot out and nice to be under the shelter of the shady canopy. Eventually the sound of the Chilliwack River can be heard as we approached the last set of switch backs.
Just when you think you’re down and about to ford the river, the trail follows the river bank and continues on with a little bushwhacking here and there for another half mile or more.
Finally the trail arrived at the first crossing of the Chilliwack River.
We were prepared to pull off our socks and shoes and ford the raging waters of the Chilliwack. Fortunately, a) it was more of a trickle and only two feet deep at best and b) 20 yards upstream we found a fallen tree and were able to cross with dry feet.
We stopped for lunch on the other side and rested our pounded toes from the downhill. We had cheese and crackers for lunch. I had pre-sealed the cheese in a vacuum packed bag, and so we dumped it in the Chilliwack for 20 minutes to get a nice chilled block of cheese before cracking the bag and chowing down.
We moved on and quickly arrived at the second crossing on the Chilliwack. This time it was much deeper, but we saw a very large tree in the distance upstream and were able to bushwhack up to it and use it to cross over. Crossing the river was amazing, we saw that the river had many wild salmon trying hard to swim upstream to return home so they could lay their eggs. The salmon were huge, bright red with green tails and hooked noses. We sat and watched them for a while in awe of seeing these creatures so far out in the wilderness.
It was mind-blowing to me to think that they have swam into the puget sound, out into the sea, maybe up to Alaska and yet somehow still managed to find every turn home to their birth place to lay eggs.
We moved on to the bank, and carried on along the river bank. Ten minutes later we arrived at a Junction with bear-creek. A quick mile later and we passed by Indian Creek Camp, (19.7mi, 2600′).
The trail continued through luscious old growth forest. The forest was magical, full of moss and enormous old growth trees.
Along the way, we crossed back over the Chilliwack - this time on a very nicely constructed suspension bridge.
I was pleasantly surprised to find such a nice bridge so far out. Every time I hike such well maintained trails as this, I feel like my annual contribution of a $50 trail pass isn’t really enough to justify the value I get out of the forest service. If you’re a ranger or a trail maintainer - excellent job, and thank you!
After the bridge, a few more miles and the trail meets up with the Junction to Bush Creek Trail, (22.4mi, 2600′). In another 0.8 miles, the trail splits and you can either go right and ford the Chilliwack again, or go left and climb the bank then cross via cable car.
Cable car! How cool is that! Why on earth would you choose to ford when you can travel in style.
The cable car was fun. It holds a max of 500 pounds, and can carry two people and their packs. You climb into the car, and pull hard on a nylon rope attached the other end. The car moves slowly across on it’s large steel cable and pulley system. The car was about 50′ above the river below and you can see the beautiful waterfall picture take mid-way upstream of the car.
After gaining the other side of the bank, a short mile later and we arrived at our destination for the day - US Cabin Camp, (24.2mi, 3200′).
Day 3 we woke early - 5:30am and ate granola and packed up the tent by torch light. The hike out was less eventful. The first two miles lead to Copper Creek Camp, (26.8mi, 3200′) and then began climbing steeply back towards the valley. Eventually we arrived back at Boundary Camp, (29.3mi, 5100′), and re-united ourselves with the blueberries.
We hung for 10 minutes or so, grazing and munching getting out last fill before the climb back up to Hannegan Pass. After a brief stop at the top of the pass, we took the final trudge down to the car park again (34.3mi), and were out by noon.
Outstanding hike. Can’t wait to get back there.
You can see pictures of this hike and a full write-up on our blog.
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