Maple Pass Loop (Oct 11, 2015)

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maple_pass_loop_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Washington Pass, USGA Mount Arriva, USGA McGregor Mountain, USGS McAlester Mountain
Area: Washington Pass
Reference: Day Hiking North Cascades
Stats: 7.74mi, 2161' gain (round trip)

Steve and I wanted to get out for a hike. The weather wasn't looking the best though. If there would be a day to hike, it looked like Sunday was the best chance. Saturday morning we checked the weather and Sunday was actually looking sunny, blue skies, and dry east up north so we decided to head up to the North Cascades to do the Maple Pass loop. I figured the larches would be starting to tail off in their annual color show but I didn't want Steve to miss it.

It is a long drive to the trailhead so we were up early and left my place at about 6am. We arrived at the Rainy Pass trailhead (4866') just before 9am and we were hiking up the loop trail soon after this. We planned to do the loop trip counter clockwise. Since you start and stop at the same place the mileage and elevation gain are the same both directions. I suppose we went counter clockwise since that it always how I've gone.

We started up the trail with little bits of blue poking out of the low clouds. As we headed up the trail there was still lots of fall color going strong. The first bits of the trail are in the trees so there aren't any far off views. At about 1.4mi (5388') we reached the junction to where the trail to Heather Pass peels off uphill (right at the junction). From here the trail starts to give up some views. We could see a light dusting of fresh snow which had fallen overnight. We could also see up to the hillsides sprinkled with the color leftover from the larch show.

The trail is an easy grade and we reached Heather Pass (2.6mi, 6032') at about 10:30am (90min from the car). I wanted to point out Lewis and Wing Lakes as well as Black Peak to Steve so we headed up to the pass proper and over the other side just far enough to see the boulder field and part of Lewis Lake. The snow had the ground coated in a thin layer of white which was pretty nice because it really set off the yellow of the larch trees.

We continued up the trail as it swtichbacked up the ridge. Lots of larches were going strong and I was a bit surprised to see just a hint of green left in others.

We reached the ridge and about 11:45am. The weather had continued to improve and we had plenty of blue sky with the low clouds lifting enough to finally see Black Peak. The trail continues up the ridge to Maple Pass and we continued up to the highest point the trail goes on the ridge and then stopped for lunch (4.6mi, 6934').

The loop trail is pretty short, only about 7.5 miles, so we had been taking out time. This was Steve's first larch trip, we had good why not take our time. After a nice long lunch, we figured it was time to head down. We could see the swtichbacking trail just below our lunch perch. Lots of larches here as well. The trail flattens out a bit near Pt6685 but then from here it is a moderately steep descent down the nose of the ridge between Lake Ann and Rainy Lake. We were back to the car by 3pm.
Maple Pass Loop Slideshow


(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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