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Try This Trail: Twisp Pass

The hills are afire—with fall colors, not actual fire.

By Craig Romano October 23, 2012

Red, red fine: The fall colors of Twisp Pass.

Trail Name: Twisp Pass

Rating: moderate

Distance: 9 miles round trip

From the site of Gilbert, a long-lost mining town, hike to a dramatic portal into the North Cascades National Park. Follow a route once used by prospectors up a glacier-carved valley to a 6,064-foot gap. It's breathtaking any time of year; come October the scenery is spellbinding thanks to larches streaking the high slopes in gold and blueberry bushes shrouding the alpine meadows in crimson.

Follow the Twisp Pass Trail between the cool forest and brushy avalanche slopes. It parallels the Twisp River, and the initially easy grade eventually steepens. Stay left at a junction and cross the North Twisp River. The way then steadily climbs through thinning pine forest and over ledges providing good glimpses down the river valley.

Continue climbing to parkland meadows, reaching Twisp Pass and the boundary of the North Cascades National Park. If you’re hiking with your dog, this is as far as you can go—enjoy the views. Otherwise, continue dropping to Dagger Lake, or, better yet, locate an abandoned but obvious trail heading north. Traversing meadows beneath Lincoln Butte, this old path meanders through groves of glowing larches and across berry patches afire in red. The way eventually peters out in a high basin below the old Stiletto Lookout about two miles from the pass. The old lookout site and a hidden lake above may entice you to keep exploring.
Watch For: Remnants of the area’s mining past.
Getting there: Take I-5 north to Burlington. Then follow SR 20 (North Cascades Highway) east to Twisp. Turn right onto Twisp River Road (Forest Service Road 44), and continue 24.6 miles to the trailhead

Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Day Hiking North Cascades.

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