Kacheelus Ridge is a gently tapered north-to-south arm that runs directly between Kacheelus and Little Kachess Lakes. Adventurers on foot tend to overlook this multi-use winter recreation area in favor of the more pristine backcountry terrain a few miles north over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary line. What this route lacks in hearty forests, however, it makes up for with spectacular vistas of Mount Rainier and the rest of the Central Cascades. And if you are up to the thrill of forging your own path, it can be a great trip for novice orienteering.
A winding snowmobile track takes you north out of the parking lot for the first 0.4 miles to a three-way junction with Forest Road 4832 near its crossing of Noble Creek. Head left and continue another 0.2 miles past signed Price Creek and the junction with Forest Road 124. This time turn right (north) and begin up the slightly steeper grade. The road parallels Price Creek at a distance for a bit before hooking west to bring you closer to the bank. Here, 1.3 miles from the trailhead, a private property sign marks a junction with a private road forking off to the left. Stay right to either embark on the long haul up Forest Road 124, or choose to veer off into the forest alongside Price Creek. The latter option sets you on a delightful cross-country climb through powdery meadows and new-growth forest. A little over a half mile from the road, the route passes a small summer cabin with southward views of Kacheelus Lake and Mount Rainier peeking up over the hills. Resume climbing and keep to a northeast bearing by crossing over a few more traversing forest roads.
The scenery changes quite abruptly upon gaining the broad, rolling ridge. An expansive network of snowmobile tracks weave through tiny scattered tree patches and cover the land, with mountain ranges rising up in every direction beyond. Wander the open slopes to discover the best vantage points for any given horizon. The giant radio tower standing on "Microwave Hill" is a fun site to explore before coasting back down.
Note: The Keechelus Ridge route passes near posted private property. Be alert for signs to keep within public land.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.