Words and photos by Kat Werle
Connecting and completing these high routes is a spectacular way to spend six days in September. My friend bought a Routes and Rocks book (the Mountaineers 1965) that had all three maps beautifully intact. We had exceptional explanations of all 3 high routes and I highly recommend (as always) bringing a map, compass, a blaze orange safety vest to hang off your backpack(hunting season) and a back-up plan. This is a basic description of the trip, please get detailed maps of these routes!
We left late on Saturday. Take Highway 2 West from Leavenworth, turn onto Highway 207 toward Lake Wenatchee then, past Lake Wenatchee, head up the 6200 Road along the Chiwawa River. We parked one car at the Trinity trailhead and the other at the Little Giant trailhead. Heading up the Chiwawa River Trail # 1550 one of us spotted the M with an arrow etched into a tree on the left of the trail (approx 3-4 miles). We headed left, crossed the river and followed an extremely steep on/off again trail to Massie Lake.
It started raining for real half way up and was sleeting / snowing by the time we made it to the lake. The next morning revealed a light dusting of snow on the lake walls and the beauty of Red Mountain, Mount Maude, Seven-Fingered Jack, and Phelps Ridge across the valley. Massie Lake has beautiful blue water and excellent fishing.
Backtrack on the Massie Lake Trail approximately 0.25 mile and head up to the High route on the east side of the Ridge. The trail fades away and you drop down about 300 to 400 feet to avoid some small cliffs. Wander by a series of basins that are perfect for resting and eating blueberries the size of gumballs. You will be heading toward Pass No Pass.
We camped at Buck Pass for the night. The camping there is beautiful with a great water source, brand new camp toilet (thanks to the Forest Service) and camp sites. The next day we headed over Liberty Cap, with its spectacular views of Glacier Peak, and followed the High Route trail to High Pass. It was easy to follow and gave us non-stop views. We originally thought we may camp at King Lake but, with little vegetation and a moderate wind blowing through the valley, we carried on.
Louis Creek Basin was the highlight of the trip. It involved crossing many boulder fields and a hands-and-feet scramble to crest the ridge into it. It was well worth the effort, however. Our tent had a spectacular view of the glaciers coating Clark Mountain, waterfalls, and the Napeequa River Valley.
Photo: Scramble from High Pass ridge into Louis Creek Basin.
Getting down to the Napeequa River Trail was part bushwhack, some trail hiking, and a slide down the largest fern covered hillside I’ve ever seen! The condensation on our tent and sleeping bags was heavy in the morning, and none of us wanted any extra weight for the climb up Little Giant Pass, so we took extra time to dry out our gear.
It’s a long trail up to the top of Little Giant Pass. There’s a saddle and some clothes about 3/4 of the way up. I don’t know the story behind these items, but I can’t imagine horses would have an easy time on the steep, narrow trail. From the pass, berries fueled us on the last five miles of trail leading down to the car.
Map. See the map below for more information.
(Note: the cross-country oriented high routes are shown and green and are probably not completely accurate but a best guess of the route followed).
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…
Photo: Clark Mt from the tent (Louis Creek Basin)
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.