High Pass is the scenic highlight of a loop trip in the Glacier Peak Wilderness east of Glacier Peak. The ascent to this high point along the loop takes the hiker through miles of meadows along ridge tops and along stream courses, crosses three passes, and is a premier hike in the area. It is not without difficulties, however, with a bridge out necessitating a ford, miles of hiking on trails that are in need of maintenance and one section that is only an unofficial trail with lots of brush. Scramblers can summit many named and unnamed summits along the way as desired.
Maps: USGS Trinity, Suiattle Pass, Clark Mountain. View our topo map below. Note: use ‘Print Preview’ before printing to properly scale this map to a full sheet of paper.
Nearest Town: Leavenworth
Skill Level: 3
Fitness Level: 3 to 4 depending on the pace taken to travel the route.
Distance: 25-27 miles
Elevation: Low point-2634 ft, High point-7919 ft
Recommended Season: Summer and early fall (to early October)
- Drive north on Highway 2 and, on the east end of Leavenworth turn north on the Chumstick Highway (aka Motteller Road)
- Follow the Chumstick Highway some 13 miles to Plain and on the north end of Plain take a right (east) on Chiwawa River Rd.
- Follow Chiwawa River Rd for about 27 miles (to the end) to reach the site of the Trinity mine and the trailhead for the High Pass loop (counterclockwise direction).
- If you wish to complete the loop traveling clockwise, the trailhead to the Napeequa River Trail is about 3.6 miles before the end of the road. Note: Those completing this loop might want to leave a mountain bike at the base of the trail to Little Giant Pass and then use one person to ride the road and retrieve the car at the end of the trip.
- An altenate approach is to drive Highway 2 to Coles Corner (14 miles west of Leavenworth), then drive 4.4 miles on Highway 207 in a northeasterly direction past Lake Wenatchee State Park to a bridge crossing the Wenatchee River. Shortly past the bridge, leave Highway 207 by staying right at a fork and then veer right again at the next fork onto the Chiwawa Loop Road. About 5.75 miles from Coles Corner, the Chiwawa Valley Road branches off to the left (maps also refer to this as the Meadows Creek Road). Turn left and follow the road about 2.7 miles to a bridge across the Chiwawa River. Cross the river and, about 0.3 miles later, curve left (remain on the paved road). The paved road becomes State Highway 3, which is also called the Chiwawa River Road… aiyee Chiwawa there are a lot of Chiwawas around here! Keep following this in a northwesterly direction and (about 8 miles from the bridge across the Chiwawa River) the road turns to gravel. From here it’s about 11.5 miles to up the Chiwawa River to Trinity.
- These instructions begin at the old mine site of Trinity at the end of the Chiwawa River Road and work counterclockwise through the loop to end at the Little Giant Trailhead about four miles down the road downstream from Trinity. This counterclockwise version allows easy miles when the packs are heaviest and has the ford as the last item before ascending a few hundred yards from the crossing of the Chiwawa River to the Little Giant Trailhead. This year’s drought made the crossing trivial (ankle length, not swift), but in many years those doing the trip before the fall season face much more difficult situations there.
- Start at the Trinity mine site and follow the trail to the small stream coming down from Pass No Pass (half a mile short of Buck Creek Pass). A one-tent spot a little above the main trail has great views of Buck Mountain and the meadows along the hiking route above Liberty Cap. This campsite would be the likely place to stay for those heading out to scramble Helmet Butte and Fortress Mountain.
- Many more campsites are in the Buck Creek Pass area, which are popular in summer and very popular during the high hunt time in the fall.
- The route to High Pass heads south from Buck Creek Pass, ascending to within 400 vertical feet of Liberty Cap, a scramble that can begun from the first spot where the trail ascends to the ridge-top south of Liberty Cap. Between here and High Pass are half a dozen or so easy scrambles that all afford front-row views of nearby Glacier Peak. Fortress, Chiwawa, and Buck Mountains are also very close.
- It is possible to drop packs at numerous ridge crossings along the way to scramble Point 6909′, Point 7276′, and Point 7625′ (Mount Cleator per Beckey). Twin knolls (7080+) right next to High Pass are short strolls from camp. Triad Lake, about 500′ below High Pass, gets few visitors.
- Continuing on the loop the next morning, follow easy ridges and grassy slopes to Point 7529′, just east of Cirque Mountain. The pleasant class-2 slopes, inspiring views, and wonderful weather are sure to please. Descend down a fork of the Napeequa River, a section with tread, but not a built trail. This consists of a few miles following a streamlet through meadow and rocky terrain, then a mile or so down steep slopes to the main fork of the Napeequa. This last mile is somewhat brushy and dusty, hardly a section to look forward to.
- Shortly before reaching the Napeequa River, the Napeequa River Trail is reached. Brushy in places, but serviceable, follow this about 3.5 miles downstream to the junction with the Boulder Pass Trail.
- The crossing of Louis Creek along the way is memorable, with waterfalls above that are impressive. There is a nice camp near the waterfalls that would be a good jumping off spot towards the Louis Creek High Route. It is also possible to camp along the river bar. It may be imagined that this junction would have more established camps, but willows grow thick wherever the river doesn’t go.
- The last 8.3 miles on the last day include a few miles continuing down the Napeequa, then a very steep ascent to Little Giant Pass. It is possible to follow a portion of the PCT detour, a route that is about a full day longer than the usual route around the west side of Glacier Peak. One long-distance PCT hiker stated that the climb from the Napeequa to Little Giant Pass was the steepest, roughest, portion of the PCT that he had encountered in three states. Nice scrambles exist both north and south of Little Giant Pass. Such as Point 6733′ on the south side. Clark Mountain and the Napeequa Valley are the nearby scenic rewards.
- The descent to the Chiwawa from Little Giant Pass is a Jekyll-Hyde variety, with the portion above the Little Giant Creek crossing steep, rough, and sometimes brushy, while the portion below the crossing is pleasant, well maintained, and less steep.
Note: Back at the Chiwawa River Road be really happy to find the mountain bike we suggested you leave behind earlier–riding 3.6 miles up to Trinity is a snap compared to walking.
Misc: It is possible to day hike to High Pass from Buck Creek Pass. However, the scenery added via the loop is worth the effort to travel the lesser-maintained portions of the route.
Land Designation: Forest Service
Fees/Permits: A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
Updated Condition Reports for the Little Giant Trail at the WTA.org website
More Info/Links: Information about this area includes portions of books by Tabor and Crowder, Sutliff, Beckey, Spring, and trail reports from the WTA website. See also this link with Tom Janisch and Mark Shipman doing this loop as, ouch, a day trip.
Trip Reporter: Charlie Hickenbottom, Wenatchee, 8/25-28
Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route. You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.