Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm
MODERATE TO DIFFICULT A hike that’s gentle enough for children…with hillsides of wildflowers… and it’s the easiest route to alpine terrain in North Cascades National Park? Of course it’ll be crowded! But part of the fun is being able to point and laugh at a marmot with a tourist from Tokyo, or chat with climbers before they crampon up Sahale Glacier. If you still want to lose the crowds, at the pass, take the Sahale Arm trail, named for its dizzying ascent through subalpine terrain into the never-ending “above.” In two miles and 2,000 feet, you’ll reach the base of the glacier (7,200 feet), where panorama paralysis has been known to kick in: You’re struck mute, camera in hand, gaping at the Eldorado and Hidden Lake peaks, lush Stehekin Valley, and on a clear day, the snow-capped tip of Mount Rainier. INSIDER TIP Wait for the snow to melt; hiking is best after June. —Hayley Poole
Round Trip 7.4–11 miles. Duration 4–7 hours. Distance from Downtown 120 miles. Permits and Passes Northwest Forest Pass. Map Green Trails no. 80 Cascade Pass. Find it.
Hidden Lake Peak
DIFFICULT The goal: to stand inside the 80-year-old lookout cabin at 6,900 feet and enjoy one of the finest views in the North Cascades, from the jagged peaks of Cascade Pass all the way to Mounts Baker, Shuksan, and Rainier. The challenge: to traverse forest and meadow, mudslides and an avalanche chute, and—finally—scramble up the steep, rocky slope to the top. Oh, and if you go before September, you might need an ice axe. —Laura Dannen
Round Trip 9 miles. Duration 6 hours. Distance from Downtown 100 miles. Permits and Passes Northwest Forest Pass. Map Green Trails no. 48 Diablo Dam and no. 80 Cascade Pass. Find it.
Hannegan PassDIFFICULT Someone needs to remake The Sound of Music on Hannegan Pass, because these hills are alive. Ruth Mountain stands sentry over a valley carpeted in wildflowers—roughly four miles of alpine meadows and subalpine forests. It’s also a breeding ground for blueberries and huckleberries. Can it get any better? It does get steep, though: After the berry-lined high pass at 5,050 feet, begin a sharp 1.2-mile hike to the alpine tundra of 6,186-foot Hannegan Peak. From this lofty summit surrounded by the serrated ridges of the North Cascades, you’ll wonder why everyone makes a fuss about the Swiss Alps. —Craig Romano
Round Trip 10.4 miles. Duration 8 hours. Distance from Downtown 130 miles. Permits and Passes Northwest Forest Pass. Map Green Trails no. 14 Mt Shuksan. Find it.
Sun MountainEASY TO DIFFICULTWinter’s finest cross-country trails in Methow Valley become ridiculously fun mountain biking options in the summer. Single- and double-track for all skill levels snake across the mount. Newbies can rent bikes at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop and enjoy a fast, flat ride around Beaver Pond, while the advanced should try the Yellow Jacket loop, a six-mile roller coaster that’s equally fast and smooth. —LD
Round Trip Up to 40 miles. Duration 2 hours to all day. Distance from Downtown 200 miles. Permits and Passes None. Map Sun Mountain Lodge’s trail guide. Find it.
Cutthroat PassMODERATE TO DIFFICULTThis single-track trail west of Winthrop starts as a tame two-mile stretch through open forest, with a quarter-mile spur to the placid Cutthroat Lake. But then you hit the rocky slope of Cutthroat Peak, which taunts with more than three miles of switchbacks (and amazing views) for a gain of 2,300 feet. Sun’s beating down, there’s nowhere to get water—and the pass, at 6,800 feet, is still a mile away. What happened to “tame”? —LD
Round Trip 10–12 miles. Duration 6–8 hours. Distance from Downtown 155 miles. Permits and Passes None. Map Green Trails no. 50 Washington Pass. Find it.