Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
8,900.00 ft (2,712.72 m)
Trail type
33.00 mi (53.11 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Copper Mountain Loop is a spectacular loop in the North Cascades National Park, only a few miles south of the Canadian Border. On this loop, you'll see incredible views, enjoy expansive Pacific Northwest forests, and experience a unique alpine ridge ramble. From this lofty vantage, you'll see Mount Baker, as well as Mount Ruth, Shuksan, and a whole host of other mountains.

This backpacking trip isn't recommended for beginners, as it requires a fair amount of elevation gain (if you're traveling counter-clockwise, mainly concentrated during the climb from the Chilliwack up to Copper Lake), but if you have a moderate amount of experience, you'll have a great time. However, make sure you plan your trip in advance, as this loop requires backcountry camping permits, and gets popular in the summer months.


  • Seasonality: As with most alpine backpacking trips in the Cascades, you'll be best served if you do this trip between July and late September. Much earlier, and you're likely to find a lot of snow in the high country, and much later, and you're likely to get snowed on! This trip is best when the alpine wildflowers are blooming, which is generally sometime in July, though it changes every year depending on snow-melt and weather.
  • Gear: You'll need your standard Pacific Northwest backpacking kit, with gear suitable for conditions between 30 and 90 degrees, though it'll rarely get to these extremes. You shouldn't need an ice axe/traction unless you're attempting this loop in early or late season conditions.
  • Permits: Backpacking in the North Cascades National Park means that you have to get backcountry camping permits, which are free, but limited. Permits can be tricky to get, so try to reserve them early (though we realize this makes it complicated to make sure you get good weather). As of October 2020, you can find the maps describing permit zones, as well as current permit numbers, at the NPS website.
  • Number of days: It's hard to say how long it will take you, though people generally do this loop in three to four days. The loop is 33 miles long with roughly 8900 feet of elevation gain. You should know from other trips you've been on what you're capable of mileage and vert-wise. If you're not totally sure you can call up the North Cascades rangers, who will be glad to help you out. However, your number of days will also depend on what backcountry campsite permits you can secure!
  • Clockwise or counterclockwise? We prefer counter-clockwise, as this allows you to get the forest hiking in first and then finish with a long alpine ridge ramble. Though depending on your weather and available permits, you may need to do it clockwise (which doesn't really make a difference).


The Trip:

You'll start your trip with a visit to the Glacier Public Service Center on Highway 542, where you'll pick up your backcountry permit. From there, you'll continue the drive to Hannegan Pass Trailhead. The original trailhead is blocked by a washout, so you'll park at the new lot, only a short distance west of the original. Get your things together for the trip, and then set out!

From the new lot, you'll easily cross the washout before beginning a long slow climb up to Hannegan Pass and the start of the loop proper. Enjoy the views of the Nooksack Ridge to your right. After a 4-mile climb, you'll top out Hannegan Pass, which is the jumping-off point for two popular side-trips: Hannegan Peak (requires no technical gear to scramble up to its summit) and Ruth Mountain (glaciated and requires some more experience).

As you descend below Hannegan Pass, you'll reach the trail junction for the loop, which marks the first camp on the loop (Boundary Camp). This trip will describe the loop counter-clockwise, though again it doesn't make much difference which way you go.

From Boundary Camp, you'll continue dropping down into the valley, following the Chilliwak River Trail. The Chilliwak River flows north into Canada! You'll pass the Copper Creek Camp, after 7 miles from the trailhead, which is a good distance for your first day. Shortly after, you'll pass the US Cabin Camp. You'll come to the delightful cable-car crossing 10 miles from the trailhead, which allows you to cross the Chilliwack River. If it's not in service you'll have to take your shoes off and cross the river the old-fashioned way!

From here, you'll wind your way northeast through the huge conifers of the Pacific Northwest. Just past Indian Creek (and the Indian Creek Camp), you'll cross the Chilliwack again (no cable car here unfortunately) and finally end your 10-mile flat stretch. You'll begin climbing up Copper Ridge, which requires a lot of switchbacks, and 3500 feet of climbing in 5 miles. From here, you'll begin contouring around to the spectacular Copper Lake (the first camp on top of the ridge).

Camp here, or continue your way southeast, climbing another 1,000 feet up to the big views by the Copper Ridge Lookout. Unfortunately, this cabin is only open to official usage, but you can look into the windows and imagine staying up here! Then begin the long, slow descent down to Silesia and Egg Lake Camps. This entire ridge section is spectacular, with huge views, so hopefully you have good weather!

Stay the night at Silesia if you can (though Egg Lake is beautiful too), and enjoy the views, before heading out in the morning and descending back to Boundary Camp. From here, you only have a short 600-foot climb back up to Hannegan Pass, before the long descent back to your car and the trailhead!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Open Year-round





Alpine scenery. Unique cable car ride.


Requires permits.

Trailhead Elevation

3,100.00 ft (944.88 m)

Highest point

6,300.00 ft (1,920.24 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Old-growth forest
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


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