Late Season at Cascade Pass


A panorama of Doubtful Lake in the North Cascades, surrounded by meadows of fall colored berry bushes, western hemlock, and the Sahale Arm trickling waterfalls from the glacier.

A photo of Doubtful Lake under Sahale Mountain on a sunny autumn day.

Wildflowers soak in sun during summer, warm from glacial and granite reflection. Snow blankets the range in winter, dividing the state of Washington. Every season in the Cascades is lush, and the wildlife thrive along ridges with abundance. Cascade Pass is the classic route taken to cross the northern range, originally inhabited by indigenous locals and traversed as a way to avoid the narrower channels of the Skagit River. On my own trek to the pass, I found bears and marmots enjoying the berry buffet autumn offers, undisturbed by the masses of enthusiastic hikers drawn to the colorful fall meadows on a sunny Saturday.

This hike is for anyone who seeks amazing views for minimal effort, because there’s a long, steep dirt road doing most the work to the high trailhead. This is a great place just to take a drive really, under Johannesberg The trail ascent is 1,800’ in 3.6 miles and provides any alpinist access to a basin of infinite possibilities and amazing views. Several peaks await. Already high in the Cascade River valley, the trail begins with switchbacks through coniferous forests, and finally opens into a 5,392’ glacial cirque surrounded by peaks.