|Goode and Frisco Mountains and Dagger Lake viewed from Twisp Pass|
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous, due to a rocky trail
Access: Unpaved road to trailhead has small, crossable washout; Northwest Forest Pass required
Twisp Pass is your run-of-the-mill North Cascades mountain pass- which means it's absolutely stunning. This remote pass straddling the Stehekin and Twisp watersheds offers views of the jagged peaks in both areas. The hike to the pass travels through the drier forest characteristic of the eastern slope of the Cascades and across rocky mountain slopes with patches of wildflower-littered meadows. The fact that the Twisp River Valley is a long way from anywhere means that this is a good spot to enjoy the Cascades without the crowds.
I hiked this trail on a clear June Sunday, the hottest day of the year so far. To avoid hiking in the midday heat, I drove out to the Twisp Valley the evening before and started hiking at 6 AM. It's a long drive out to the trailhead from Seattle, nearly a five hour drive regardless whether you take US 2 or Highway 20 to get to the area. I arrived via Highway 20, taking I-5 north to Burlington and then following Highway 20 east across Washington Pass to Twisp; at Twisp, I turned right (west) onto the Twisp River Road and followed it until I reached the Gilbert Trailhead, just a half mile before the end of the road at Road's End Campground. The Twisp River Road is unpaved for the last seven miles and included a spot where a creek was flowing over the road; I drove through it in a Prius so most cars should be able to handle it. The road was otherwise in decent shape besides some washboarding a few potholes.
Two trails leave from the Gilbert Trailhead: the Twisp Pass Trail heads west, while the North Lake Trail instead heads to the northeast; there's no clear marking at the trailhead which trail is which. The correct path to Twisp Pass is to follow the trail that heads to the left from the parking area. The first part of the hike was fairly flat, with minimal elevation gain as the trail traveled westward up the valley a decent way uphill from the Twisp River. The trail was badly overgrown more or less from the start. It was pretty obvious that this part of the Cascades doesn't see many visitors: the trail register indicated that there were few hikers here even on one of the nicest weekends of the year so far, the tiny Roads End campground wasn't even filled on a nice weekend, and the trails themselves are often brushy.
About half a mile from the trailhead, the trail passed just uphill of the Roads End Campground. An unmarked, brushy social trail led from the Twisp Pass Trail down to the campground; while it's theoretically possible to park at the campground and shave a mile round trip off the hike, it's not a great option as there's little additional parking space at the campground and the connector trail itself is difficult to spot at the campground.
Past the campground, the trail began a gradual uphill climb to reach a crossing of the North Fork Twisp River, 2.2 miles from the trailhead. This stretch of trail was often overgrown and mostly stayed in the forest, but at times broke out into small clearings with views of nearby Crescent Mountain, Abernathy Peak, and Hock Mountain. There was a profusion of wildflowers along the trail, most notably lupine, paintbrush, phlox, arnica, and columbine.
|Log bridge over the North Fork Twisp|
|Lupine and paintbrush bloom along the trail, Lincoln Butte rises behind|
|View of the South Fork Twisp River Valley|
|Blasted trail with a view of Abernathy Peak|
|Trail to Twisp Pass|
The final section of trail was mostly melted out and had turned more or less into a stream for snowmelt coming off of the pass. Meadows carpeted with glacier lilies soon welcomed me to the alpine parklands near the pass. A wooden sign marking the boundary of North Cascades National Park and the Stephen Mather Wilderness welcomed me to the pass. The pass itself was forested, with no real views to the north or west, though Stiletto Peak's sharp form peeked through the trees at points. The trail continued through the snow into the park, dropping towards Dagger Lake, but my destination for the day was the pass.
Although the pass itself was forested, there were a few viewpoints nearby that offered some extraordinary views into North Cascades National Park; it's a shame if anyone comes this far and then misses seeing them. Two social trails break off to the northeast from the pass: the more defined path followed the southern side of the ridge leading towards Lincoln Butte, while the less defined path branched to the left and followed the tree-lined top of the ridge to a small rocky viewpoint at a brief break in the trees. This spot had an incredible view down the Bridge Creek Valley to the icy peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse on the other side of the Stehekin watershed. Spider Mountain, Mount Formidable, and Hurry Up Peak, all peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse and clear on the other side of the national park, were visible as a wall in the distance. To the right of those peaks was the great spire of 9,200-foot Goode Mountain, the tallest peak in North Cascades National Park and one of the tallest nonvolcanic peaks in all the Cascades. Frisco Mountain and Corteo Peak- the summits that define the landscape of the Maple Pass Loop- poked above a nearby forested ridge. Below this wall of peaks, the McAlester Creek Basin nestled the reflective, dark waters of Dagger Lake.
|View into North Cascades National Park from Twisp Pass|
|Stiletto Peak from Twisp Pass|
|Crescent Mountain and South Creek Butte rise above a pond near Twisp Pass|
A side note: the Gilbert Trailhead is just a few hundred yards away from a few structures that remain in the ghost town of Gilbert. This was once a mining community, though I'm unsure what was mined in the Twisp Valley and the internet has so far been unhelpful (elsewhere, copper and gold mines are quite common in Okanogan County).