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Eldorado Peak

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades, Washington

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Eldorado Peak

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  • Emerging from the boulder field.- Eldorado Peak
  • Johannesburg Mountain is visible for most of the ascent.- Eldorado Peak
  • Crossing the ridge into the Eldorado alpine basin.- Eldorado Peak
  • Starting on the glacier; Johannesburg Mountain to the left and Glacier Peak in the middle.- Eldorado Peak
  • Getting ready to make camp on the glacier.- Eldorado Peak
  • Camping on the glacier.- Eldorado Peak
  • After high camp, the views during the ascent are outstanding.- Eldorado Peak
  • Crossing a snow bridge and getting ready to transition to rock.- Eldorado Peak
  • Eldorado is famous for its beautiful knife edge. It gets narrower and more exposed.- Eldorado Peak
  • The glaciers in this area of the North Cascades are stunning.- Eldorado Peak
  • View from the summit of Eldorado Peak.- Eldorado Peak
  • High camp on the rocky outcrop.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking south from the Inspiration Glacier.- Eldorado Peak
  • The East Ridge of Eldorado from Inspiration Glacier.- Eldorado Peak
  • Heading up from High Camp on Eldorado.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking southeast across Inspiration Glacier from High Camp.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking east toward Moraine Lake and Forbidden Peak.- Eldorado Peak
  • Heading up the lower section of the East Ridge.- Eldorado Peak
  • On the final push up the East Ridge.- Eldorado Peak
  • Views of the Cascade River drainage from East Ridge.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking South from the summit of Eldorado.- Eldorado Peak
  • Eldorado is known for it's aesthetic knife-edge ridge.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking south along the Eldorado Glacier descent.- Eldorado Peak
  • Nearing the knife ridge with Moraine Lake in the background.- Eldorado Peak
  • Klawatti Peak and neighboring towers to the north of Eldorado summit.- Eldorado Peak
  • Dorado Needle and North Cascade Park to the north of Eldorado.- Eldorado Peak
  • Creek crossing on a log bridge.- Eldorado Peak
  • Climber's trail out of Cascade River drainage.- Eldorado Peak
  • The first of two boulder fields, which post a bounty of cairns that will guide you to the path of least resistance.- Eldorado Peak
  • After leaving the timberline, Johannesburg Mountain dominates the horizon.- Eldorado Peak
  • Rewarding views after reaching timberline.- Eldorado Peak
  • Approaching the notch to Eldorado Glacier at 6,200 feet.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking south into the Cascade River drainage.- Eldorado Peak
  • A beautiful sunset lights up the sky.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking west toward Hidden Lake Lookout.- Eldorado Peak
  • Alpenglow on Torment and Forbidden Peaks.- Eldorado Peak
  • Milky Way overpowering Seattle city lights.- Eldorado Peak
  • Looking east toward Cascade Pass.- Eldorado Peak
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Terrific views. Great knife edge. Solitude.
Cons: 
Steep approach.
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Region:
North Cascades, WA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Recommended Equipment:
Ice axe / crampons, Harness / rope / anchors, Helmets
Alpine climbing NCCS rating: 
Grade II
Net Elevation Gain: 
6,750.00 ft (2,057.40 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,120.00 ft (646.18 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

For those wanting to enjoy a fun glacier travel experience and summit an awesome peak without having to commit to a long guided trip, Eldorado Peak (8,868 feet), located in North Cascades National Park, has to rank among the best options in the Pacific Northwest. While it can be done as a long and tough day trip, spending a night in the mountain will turn this into an enjoyable overnighter that will cross many items off any mountaineer’s perfect weekend wishlist!

This trail uses a climber’s unmaintained herdpath, but it sees enough traffic to have become well-defined and easy to follow. From the parking lot on Cascade River Road, backtrack about 150 feet toward Marblemount to cross the river on conveniently placed logs. If there are no logs on which to cross, you are not at the right place.

After the crossing, the steep ascent begins. Prepare for this mentally, especially on hot summer days, because the steep grade can be punishing with a heavy pack and heat. At the end of summer there are few reliable water sources before the alpine basin, a solid 3,500 feet above trailhead. The dusty trail does not switchback, and it climbs steeply and steadily in the forest.

After a little over a mile, climbers reach a boulder field that will take time to cross. The path is identified by cairns and requires some boulder hopping. Sticking to the right of the field will usually allow climbers to use an occasional path on smaller rocks and vegetation, but most of the field will have to be traversed on rocks.

When the boulder field finally ends, the alpine basin is practically reached and moving becomes easier. There is also running water from glacier melt that can be used for topping off bottles and bladders. From the basin, the next step is to cross the ridge to the northwest and descend steeply into the Eldorado alpine basin. After crossing the ridge, score your first views of Eldorado Peak and the glacier that will need to be ascended and traversed to reach the destination.

Before reaching the glacier, cross one last rock field that has running water and then don the crampons and get the ice ax out to safely navigate the glacier. At this stage there are a few crevasses, and some people may prefer roping up, but the slope is gentle and should not pose challenges.

Upon reaching the ridge, Eldorado Peak stands out to the north. Climbers have two options at this point: camping on the glacier or continuing for a little under a mile to the high camp on a small rocky outcrop. Camping on the glacier will require the usual precautions with probes and pickets to ensure the tent does not fly away if the winds are strong.

From the ridge, descend slightly in a bowl and ascend to the rocky section that constitutes high camp. After the camp, climbers will usually rope up to safely navigate the crevasses and the steeper slope. Later in summer, the glacier will have likely melted and a short transition to a scramble on rock may be required. After that section, climbers can rope up again to continue the ascent and traverse on the dramatic knife edge just before the summit. This section has exposure on both sides and, snow pickets may be used for added security. Looking back occasionally is recommended and well worth it: The primo alpine scenery will speak for itself!

At the end of the knife edge, the rocky summit is reached and the views are outstanding in all directions. Known as the “queen of the Cascades,” one quickly understands how the peak got its name. Mount Baker and Shuksan are prominent to the north and Glacier Peak stands out to the south. The only negative thing about the summit is that it will inevitably be time to leave at some point.

The return is via the same route used for the ascent. The steep descent can be painful with a heavy pack, but memories of the summit will ease the mind. Overall, the trip is not very long, at barely over 10 miles, but the steepness of the approach and the boulder field, combined with a heavier pack for those opting to spend a night, will likely make the trip tougher than anticipated.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(16 within a 30 mile radius)

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(27 within a 30 mile radius)

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