The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is home to some prime wilderness. Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan and Ruth Peak are its most famous residents, and understandably so. However, if glacier travel is not in your plans, there are other excellent options to enjoy the outdoors nearby. This hike in the Skagit Range leads to the 6,187-foot summit of Hannegan Peak and offers an excellent view-to-effort ratio.
The hike starts from the large parking area at the very end of National Forest Road 32, where car-camping sites are available. The smooth trail follows Ruth Creek for the first 4 miles, gently ascending from the bottom of the valley and away from the creek. It crosses three large streams and waterfalls where topping off water bottles is possible. Even though this part of the trail is in the valley, there are few trees and plenty of views, especially of the Nooksack Ridge to the south. At 7,115 feet, ice-capped Ruth Mountain makes a dramatic appearance as well. Don’t miss the wildflowers in the summer.
Toward the end of the valley, where the base of Ruth Mountain starts, the trail switchbacks up to 5,066-foot Hannegan Pass, the first and only junction of the day. Three other trails converge at this point: One goes south toward Ruth Mountain without reaching it, and another one goes east toward a camp and the Copper Ridge. While those make for great hikes, Hannegan Peak is tackled by the third trail, which heads north. Wood signs indicate directions.
At Hannegan Pass, a smooth and continuous ascent of 1,100 vertical feet awaits. Treeline is reached quickly, and the views are simply stunning. The photogenic Nooksack Ridge is just across the valley to the southwest, and the glaciers of Ruth Mountain command attention. Patches of snow can also linger on Hannegan Peak throughout the summer. From the summit, score great views of the ridge around Copper Mountain across the valley to the east. It may inspire a backpacking trip.
No trip to the region would be complete without catching a glimpse of Mount Baker (10,781 feet). The imposing mountain with its everlasting snowfields is visible from the summit of Hannegan Peak, between the mountains of the Nooksack Ridge and Ruth Mountain. Mount Shuksan (9,131 feet) and its western glaciers can also be seen.
With some determination, Granite Mountain could be reached as well. It would add about 2.5 miles round-trip, all above tree line, and 1,600 vertical feet of ascent northwest. There is no trail however, so it should only be attempted by experienced hikers used to backcountry travel.
As this is an out-and-back, the return trip takes the same trail used for the ascent.