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West Cady Ridge to Benchmark Mountain

Central Cascades

Location

Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
View map below

Length

14.4 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 3700 ft.
Highest Point: 5816 ft.

Rating

3.50 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2018
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Unlike many other hikes in the Cascades that gain considerable elevation, the way to West Cady Ridge gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs and find your pace before the climb truly begins. In fact, the whole of the trip is on beautiful tread which allows you to spend more time looking at the scenery around you and less time watching where your feet are going.

And what scenery! Down low, the trees that provide you with welcome shade on your way up to the ridge crest are BIG! Though this area was left out of the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act, the trees surrounding you were spared the saw when President Bush signed Wild Sky Wilderness into law in 2008. So on your way up (and up, and up -- you'll gain 2,250 feet in 3.8 miles), stop to admire the ancient beauties that will now last as long as nature allows.

Around two miles, the forest canopy begins to thin and huckleberry and mountain ash become more abundant. Now climbing through heather meadows, views to surrounding peaks begin and continue to grow. At 3.8 miles and 4,750 feet, the trail crests a small knoll.

This is a perfect spot for feasting on food, scenery, and views if a shorter trip is all you've ordered. Kyes, Columbia, and other Monte Cristo peaks fill the horizon to the northwest while Wild Sky beauty Spire shows a snowy face to the southwest across Jacks Pass.

But why stop? Your hard work is over with and the journey has only just begun! Now a true ridge walk, the trail follows the ridge crest up and down as it rolls along. At about 5.5 miles and 5,375 feet, the trail crosses into Henry M. Jackson Wilderness and you amble through parkland meadows teeming with wildlife -- keep an eye out for bears.

At 6.9 miles and 5,500 feet, the route veers left at an easy-to-miss junction near a cluster of mountain hemlock just after a pyramid shaped boulder. This makes a fine campsite if sleeping under the stars is on the agenda.

The final 0.3 mile and 300 feet will bring you to Benchmark's elongated summit and one of the most amazing views available in all of the central Cascades. Expect wildflowers and peaks all around. Feast your eyes until they've had their fill, then head for the huckleberries and feast some more.

WTA Pro Tip: Make a full weekend of visiting the Wild Sky Wilderness by camping at the Beckler River Campground, noted for its peaceful atmosphere. 27 sites including multi-family and wheelchair access.

River access is available while site privacy is provided courtesy of vine maples and shrubs. The campground is a good jump-off point for recreational activities in the North Fork Skykomish, Beckler River and West Fork Foss River areas. Campsite reservations may be made through www.recreation.gov.

Camping and restrooms are also available at the trailhead.

 

West Cady Ridge to Benchmark Mountain

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.9267, -121.2771 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West

West Cady Ridge (#1054), Benchmark Mountain (#1054.1)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Green Trails Monte Cristo No. 143

Green Trails Benchmark Mtn No. 144

Getting There

From Everett, head east on US 2 for 50 miles, turning left onto Beckler River Road. Proceed for about 15 miles, crossing the North Fork Skykomish River. Just after the crossing, return to paved road and a junction. Here, turn right onto FR 63 and drive to the road's end (about 5 miles).

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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West Cady Ridge to Benchmark Mountain

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