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Home Go Hiking Trip Reports Indian Creek, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass, Image Lake via Miners Ridge, Buck Creek Pass, High Pass, Napeequa River, Boulder Pass, White River

Trip Report By

Hiked Sep 5, 2021

Type of Hike

Multi-night backpack

Trail Conditions

Obstacles on trail:
    Trees down across trail,
    Overgrown in places.

Road

Road suitable for all vehicles

Bugs

Bugs were not too bad

Snow

Snow free

I took a few extra days off after Labor Day weekend to do a 7-day clockwise circuit around Glacier Peak. We slept at the trailhead the night before and got an early start on Sunday morning. The road is accessible to all vehicles -- if our 2008 Toyota Prius could make it, your car can probably make it too. 

Day 1: Indian Creek to White Pass (~15.5 miles)
Wowwww, just wow. Enjoy the first 3 miles (a pleasant meander through your standard PNW forest) or so of this trail because you'll certainly miss them once you encounter Brush Town, USA. Never in my life have I hiked a brushier established trail than this. The valley itself is lovely (especially with all the fall colors starting to pop), but unfortunately I didn't have much capacity to take in the views as I was too busy dragging/forcing myself through overgrown thimbleberry, ferns, alder stands, and various tall grasses. As others have mentioned, the trail is a bit tricky to find at times, but it never took more than a minute or so of "huhhh?"-ing to get back on track. I was SO HAPPY to finally hit the PCT at mile 12-ish. We hiked north on the PCT for about 3 miles to White Pass before taking a trail to the left to drop below the ridge to set up camp for the night at one of the established sites (pit toilet available). There are signs posted asking folks not to camp on the ridge. We saw a bajillion marmots (give or take).

Day 2: White Pass to Mica Lake (~19 miles)
After packing up camp in the wee hours of the morning, we hiked over to Red Pass and into the valley below. Others might disagree, but I thought this was the most scenic section of the entire loop. We got to the valley at around 8am, and something about the low-lying clouds and the way the morning light hit the river and the surrounding hillsides made me feel like we were Sam and Frodo on our way to Mordor to get rid of that blasted ring. Can we all agree that Sam and Frodo were the OG ultralight hikers? They weren't even wearing shoes. We arrived at Mica Lake around 5pm and set up camp next to a pair of NOBO PCT hikers we'd been leapfrogging throughout the day. There isn't much space at the lake itself for folks to camp (probably 4-5 tents max?), but there are more sites about a half mile beyond the lake.

Day 3: Mica Lake to the Suiattle River (~22 miles)
An up and down day in terms of elevation and my overall mood. We were glad to have hit the switchbacks climbing out of Milk Creek early in the day to avoid the sun. The peekaboo glimpses of Glacier Peak were a nice bonus as well. This area was brushy, but really nothing in comparison to what we experienced during our slog up Indian Creek. One of the highlights from this day was the stand of old growth conifers we hiked past on the west side of the Suiattle, close to the bridge crossing. Ancient giants never fail to humble me. I took many photos but failed to capture their enormity. We camped at a site near the bottom of the switchbacks leading up to Miners Ridge. 

Day 4: Suiattle River to Image Lake (~7 miles)
We originally planned for this to be a longer day in terms of mileage, but in the end we decided that we wanted to take it easy and camp at Image Lake. The climb up to Miners Ridge felt like it took forever (nicely graded, just a long haul), but the views were definitely worth it. I highly suggest taking the 0.2 mile detour over to the lookout once you hit the ridge. You can't camp at the lake itself, but there are clear signs to point you in the direction of the established sites. We watched the sunset from a spur trail on the north side of the lake (this area is probably where most of those 'Image Lake w/ Glacier Peak in the background' pics are taken from). The pit toilet near the campsites has an amazing view of Glacier Peak, FYI, so you can poo and experience the wonders of nature at the same time. 

Day 5: Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass (~14 miles)
This section was pretty uneventful, but the views were stupendous. The meadows just out of Image Lake were simply *chef's kiss*. The trail gets a bit steeper after the intersection with the PCT, and the final push up to Buck Creek Pass was grueling at the end of a long day. There are a few spots to camp at the base of Flower Dome, and while you might be tempted to set up camp there after the steep suffer fest you just endured, I'd suggest going another half mile or so to get to the next set of sites near the juncture with the Liberty Cap Trail because you'll be rewarded with an unbeatable view of Glacier Peak right from your tent. I spent about an hour picking blueberries near our campsite while I watched the sunset behind the mountain. Very picturesque. 

Day 6: Buck Creek Pass to Boulder Pass (~14 miles)
High Pass! So marvelous. Ridge walks are my fav. The trail is pretty steep leading up to and dropping into the Napeequa Valley. My knees were unhappy, but thankfully those sections were brief enough. I'm partial to valleys, so I absolutely adored the first few miles of this day. Again, I must credit the fall colors for being the cherry on top of an already beautiful spot. The trail sort of morphs into a Choose Your Own Adventure situation towards the end of the valley (I think a few washouts/slides have obliterated the true trail), but just follow the river and you'll be okay. I do regret that by this point on our loop I probably looked like a frazzled/deranged rodent because we happened to pass a group of what appeared to be super models heading north halfway through the valley. What a time to have looked my worst. To my great displeasure, it started to rain right as we got to where we had to ford the Napeequa. There wasn't really a discernable trail leading to river, but we just headed towards the water right at the intersection with the Little Giant Trail and easily found a spot where other people had clearly crossed at. I'm, like, very short (literally 5'0" on a good day), so the water went up to my hips, but the current wasn't moving very quickly and the crossing itself was super brief. I went barefoot with the aid of trekking poles, but I'm sure that others might prefer to keep their shoes on or switch to water shoes. The water was opaque, so the poles were useful in gauging depth. A few soggy miles after the ford (uphill, but evenly graded), we set up camp at Boulder Pass, which was quite pretty shrouded in mist and burgeoning with fall colors. It continued to rain throughout the night, and I was not pleased as I grumpily ate my instant mashed potatoes. 

Day 7: Boulder Pass to White River (~10.5 miles)
I'm not sure if I would have noticed how brushy the first couple miles of this section were if everything hadn't been so darn wet from the previous night's rain. My pants were 100% drenched within an hour of leaving camp. If I could go back in time, I think I would have packed rain pants. Oh well. I was glad to end the loop on a section that was entirely downhill. I passed the time by listening to irreverent podcasts and gorging on the last of my candy stash.  We got back to the trailhead around 1pm and proceeded to high-five each other and accost a stranger to take photos of us. We celebrated our great accomplishment by eating giant, greasy cheeseburgers in Skykomish before heading back home. I can now rest easy knowing that I did A Thing™ this summer, so it really doesn't matter if I spend the rest of 2021 on my couch re-watching Dawson's Creek for the sixth time. 

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