Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak

North Cascades National Park

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Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak

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  • Beginning of the Thornton Lakes Trail on the relatively level old forest road.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium).- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Devil's club (Oplopanax horridus).- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Crossing over Thornton Creek.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Dwarf dogwood (Cornus unalaschkensis), which is also known as bunchberry, along the Thornton Lakes Trail.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Steep granite wall along the Thornton Lakes Trail.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • First view of the surrounding peaks along the Thornton Lakes Trail.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View southwest down the Skagit River Valley with Whitehorse Mountain (6,850') and Three Fingers South (6,850') in the distance.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View of the North Cascades from the Thornton Lakes Trail.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View of Thornton Lakes.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View south across the Skagit River Valley of the surrounding North Cascades.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View south across the Skagit River Valley of the surrounding North Cascades.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View of Paul Bunyan's Stump (7,500') at left and The Needle (8,152') at right.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View south toward Primus Peak (8,508'), Klawatti Peak (8,485'), and Eldorado Peak (8,868').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Thornton Lakes and Mount Triumph (7,240').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Lower Thornton Lake and the Skagit River Valley.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Lower Thornton Lake.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Upper Thornton Lake.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View of Mount Degenhardt.- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View north to the surrounding North Cascades from Trappers Peak (5,966').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View north of the surrounding North Cascades from Trappers Peak (5,966').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • Thornton Lakes and Mount Triumph (7,240').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
  • View east from Trappers Peak (5,966').- Thornton Lakes Trail + Trappers Peak
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
360-views of North Cascades. Old-growth forest. Huckleberries along the trail.
Cons: 
Strenuous elevation gain. Scramble near Trappers Peak.
Region:
North Cascades, WA
Congestion: 
High
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
National Park Pass
Total Distance: 
10.60 mi (17.06 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
2,520 ft (768 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
3,450 ft (1,052 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
No

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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

Like so many of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park, this trail demands a lot - 10.6 miles there-and-back and nearly 3,500 feet of elevation gain - but the reward of 360-degree views of the surrounding North Cascades and lake-filled cirques is absolutely worth the effort and scramble it takes to get to the top of 5,966-foot Trappers Peak.

The climb to get to the top of this iconic granite perch would have been even more arduous if it weren't for a 3.7-mile old logging road that thankfully takes you to the hike's trailhead at 2,520 feet. From here you'll follow the old logging road and gradual single track trail for 2.3 miles through second-growth vegetation (originally clear-cut in the 1960s) around the Thornton Creek bowl before you'll start the real switchback ascent.

Once the trail starts to climb you'll enter into a lush old-growth forest dominated by western hemlock, Pacific silver fir, Douglas fir and Alaska yellow cedar with Cascade blueberries lining the majority of the steep route. Then, after an additional 2.2 miles of switchbacks you'll get to the hike's saddle. Head left and you'll drop 500 feet to Lower Thornton Lake and a handful of backcountry campsites. Head right and you'll hike and scramble up 950 feet along a narrow spine to the rewarding summit of Trappers Peak.

From the top of Trappers Peak everything will come into view. The sheer granite face of Mount Triumph to the north, Mount Degenhardt and Diablo Lake to the east, The Needle and Eldorado Peak to the south, and Whitehorse Mountain in the distant southwest.

Note: Because the hike enters into North Cascades National Park, dogs are not permitted on the trail. If you will be backpacking, you'll need to obtain an overnight backcountry permit from the Marblemount Ranger Station and Wilderness Information Center located in Marblemount. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and permits are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(17 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(34 within a 30 mile radius)

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