After seeing friends' photos from an overnight trip up Sahale Arm via CascadePass several years ago—even before we began hiking seriously—the trip has sat almost constantly atop our queue, waiting for the perfect window of time and weather to savor the experience.
This wouldn't be that.
But it wasn't half-bad, either.
After reading that the Cascade River Road would close September 1st and remain closed through much of October, I set aside the hope that this would be the year that we'd backpack up Sahale Arm and spend the night under starry skies and, instead, settled for a dayhike up to CascadePass, or perhaps a bit beyond. If all I'd read was to be believed—i.e., that I'd run out of superlatives before reaching the pass—we'd be returning for that idealized evening on the Arm, anyway.
Knowing that the trail would be busy no matter what the time, and doing our best to get all of six hours of sleep after watching Inglourious Basterds the night before, we left West Seattle at 06:20. After stopping in Marblemount in a thwarted attempt at a warm breakfast sandwich, we headed up the 23-mile Cascade River Road stuffing a quarter-pound of Costco muffin into each of our mouths. Signs along the way warn that the road is primitive, but it's actually an excellent road, with glimpses up and across the valley all along the way. At 09:10, just less than three hours after leaving home, we pulled into a large, mostly-full parking lot. I'd expected views at the parking lot, but I was impressed nevertheless by the dominating face of Johannesburg Mountain, even as seen through our cracked windshield. Its upper reaches were shrouded in clouds.
Once booted up, we left the trailhead (3600') behind us and set ourselves a speedy pace, putting space between us and a party of ~ten that seemed like it was almost ready to hit the trail as well. The trail ascends numerous—but gentle—switchbacks, and though we heard voices below us from time-to-time, we were treated to a surprising quietness as we climbed. Our pace stayed quick, slowing only as we glanced over our shoulders down the Cascade River valley (which came into view about forty minutes into the hike) or across to Johannesburg again.
Around 10:30, the trail—no longer switchbacking, now traversing—crosses a large rockfield; pika sounds abound. CascadePass is in sight.
As we rose to the pass, so too did the voices of those who had stopped at the pass: admirers of the Stehekin Valley and the peaks on either side, climbers off to Eldorado, et al., and those content to take a seat on rock benches and eat their early lunches. We sat down briefly among the eight—nine—ten there and added our quiet voices to the chorus. It was 10:55; it had taken us just over an hour-and-a-half to make it the ~3.7 miles and 1800' of gain to the pass (5400').
Though the views were nice when we reached the pass, in all honesty, the views toward the direction we'd come from (West) were better than those over the pass (East). Since we'd made such good time, we set off again, toward Sahale Arm, intending to climb only as far as we felt like it, hoping to see Sahale Peak itself and Doubtful Lake below it.
The climb from CascadePass to Sahale Arm is by far steeper than the trail beforehand, but not overly difficult. It is, however, quite rocky, and after ~thirty minutes and an encounter with a relaxed marmot, Nicole decided to turn around and wait for me at the pass. Her ankle had been bothering her since the weekend before, when we'd backpacked up to and down from Gothic Basin. Giving the ankle a rest was probably a good idea, as we have a lot of hiking to do in the next few weeks...
I continued up alone, reaching the ridge crest (6200') and an intersection with a trail down to Doubtful Lake at 11:35. Here, Sahale Peak and its Arm are visible, though the summit itself remained hidden in the clouds. I continued several steps further. Then the beautiful blue Doubtful Lake appeared below me. I took pictures for a few minutes, turning often to look up the Arm, trying to see just where we'll camp when we do do this as a backpack...
I met Nicole back at the pass at 12:10. She'd been eating Combos, watching marmots, and layering up. There was a cold wind at the pass. I added a layer and we headed down at 12:20, stopping briefly to take someone's photo, and again to take off a layer once out of the wind.
We coasted down the semi-busy trail, coming to a halt finally in the parking lot at 13:45 to use the restroom and take off our boots. Shortly thereafter, we were off. A fine day, aside from the parking lot known as southbound I-5.
Indeed, this is a wonderful hike with beauty straightaway. I can see why it is one of the most popular trails in Washington, and I'm looking forward to spending the night up Sahale Arm, hopefully on a quiet, fall, non-weekend day.
Stats: ~9 miles round-trip from the trailhead (3600') to Sahale Arm (6200') and back—it's ~7.2 round-trip to CascadePass. There's 1800' of elevation gain en route to the pass, and another ~800' up to my turnaround point, for a total gain/loss of 2600'—a few hundred feet less for Nicole. It took us 1:35 to make the pass, it took me 1:10 to climb up the Arm and back, and it took us 1:25 to descend from CascadePass to the parking lot. Hike time: 3:00 round-trip to the pass, 4:25 total.
Be sure to pipe in over on the Stewardship column for fixing the Stehekin River Rd. From your photo looking east into the Stehekin Valley, it is about 6 miles to the old campground at Cottonwood! A cross-Cascade dayhike with the mother of all shuttles!
CascadePass is a Beauty trail with lots of great views.
But, Hidden Lake peak Lookout has better views than those from Cascadepass!
The lookout is higher, and it it has views of many of the same peaks you can see from Cascadepass. Perhaps the only thing it doesnt have is that great look over to the falling ice on Jo-Berg.
But overall, the views of El Dorado, Dorado needle, Forbidden, Boston, Sahale, the Ptarm traverse peaks, the South Cascade glacier, Dome peak, Spire point, Buckindy, SnowKing, Glacier peak, 3 fingers, Whitehorse, Twin Sisters, Baker, Shuksan, the Pickets, Snowfield, Spickard, etc etc make Hidden Lake peak a better view than Cascadepass.
In fact the view from Hidden Lake lookout is surpassed only by summits that require climbing, in my opinion. I have been on Sahale, and I am not sure it was a better view. Maybe it was, but not by much. And that is the view from Sahale, not Cascadepass. The views from the summits of Redoubt and McMillan Spire would also be of that class.
But for something you can hike to on a trail, you cant beat Hidden Lake peak lookout for views. You can camp up on the ridge there too, if not at the lookout.
Hidden Lake Peak did look pretty nice from CascadePass. That one's been on my list, too. Especially now.
I've actually read most of the Stehekin River Road thread. Informative read. I can see both sides, really. I'm afraid even with all that reading, I'm not informed enough to come down on either side of the issue. If it can be fixed with minimal impact, go for it. If not, well, I don't see myself getting a car all the way up to Stehekin, anyway!
Nice pictures and TR... darn I didn't know it was closing sept 1. I guess I will have to skip this one this year.
I always have that... I am feeling great at the pass and then that piece of trail between the pass and the lake really eats up all your energy in a hurry. Are there any other good places to go to other than the lake from the pass?
Where is "Hidden Lake peak Lookout"? ... I don't think I've ever hiked that trail.
Joined: 08 Dec 2009 Posts: 49 | TRs | Pics Location: longview and seattle (winter) stehekin (summer)
Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:03 pm
cruise down to horseshoe basin
from the top of the pass to horseshoe basin is only about 3 hours round trip. for me the perfect trip to cascadepass would be come in from the stehekin side, start in the morning and make camp at basin creek, get up early, pack up and head to horseshoe basin (cache your stuff at the turnoff to HSB) and go up and explore the basin and mine for a few hours, come back down and cruise up to pelton basin camp, drop my stuff and bushwhack to trapper lake, go back to pelton and camp, get up early and cruise up to the pass, then backtrack to sahale arm trail and head up to the glacier, drop my pack at camp and make it to the summit, come back and camp, get up the next morning and head back to high bridge (or i my case back to my car at the old wagon trail TH).
but anyway, those are great pics, hopefully one of these times i will get to go up to CP for the west side
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