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Copper Pass via Twisp River

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth
View map below

Length

10.6 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 3100 ft.
Highest Point: 6720 ft.

Rating

3.00 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2018
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Take an old prospector’s trail from valley forest and climb above tree-line to Copper Pass. In the vein of a prospector trail, this heads mostly straight up the hill with few switchbacks. Once at the pass, enjoy the views west to the heart of the North Cascades and take time for exploration in all directions.

From the trailhead (elevation 3620 feet) take a left onto the Twisp Pass Trail at the trail register. Ensure you do not take the trail to the right going to North Lake

The impact of the 2018 Crescent Mountain Fire will be evident for the first 1.6 miles as the trail gradually climbs up the valley. The burned, dead trees offer little shade, so a morning start is advisable. On the plus side, fireweed and aster survived the fire, and most of the brush in the avalanche runouts was burned.

Along the way, pass the informal trail down to the Road’s End Campground, and enter the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness at 0.9 mile. The fire effects continue for another 0.7 miles, followed by a half-mile of old forest with welcome shade on those sunny days and avalanche runouts with brush canyons — soaking hikers after any rain or morning dew! Not to worry, the heat of the day and the climb to come will speed drying out.

The junction with the Copper Creek Trail may be unsigned. At the bridge over the North Fork Twisp River, 2.1 miles from the trailhead and at 4440 feet of elevation, turn right onto the Copper Creek Trail and stay right at the subsequent unsigned trail to the horse ford.

This is the trail less traveled, as most hikers and stock stay on the Twisp Pass Trail. The next 1.4 miles of trail to the North Fork Twisp River crossing is a gradual climb in the forest with sections of brushy avalanche areas. The trail quality varies from rooty and rocky to pleasant forest duff.

The North Fork Twisp River crossing can be difficult in June with the spring runoff. But just after the crossing, a large camp site at 4960 feet of elevation makes a good shady break spot. By this point, the gradual climb has gained 1300 feet in 3.5 miles. There's only 1.7 miles to go, but 1800 feet to climb! Obviously, the last third of the trip will be much steeper than the first two-thirds.

The next 0.8 mile of trail can be difficult with steep climbs and avalanche debris and logs. Along the way, take in a nice waterfall view, the log foundation of a prospector’s cabin with an exterior fireplace, and peek-a-boo views across the valley.

A somewhat rocky trail traverses and climbs through meadows of flowers and berries interspersed with subalpine trees for 0.6 miles, with ever improving views. The meadows change to heather with fewer trees just before an reaching an unsigned junction with an informal trail up the meadowed bench to the left. Turn right into the basin and cross the North Fork Twisp River a second time to start the final push to the pass. Note that this basin can hold snow into late July.

After trudging 0.3 mile up the rocky and somewhat eroded trail, reach Copper Pass at elevation 6720 feet. The views include Lincoln Butte and Crescent Mountain to the southeast and the Copper Creek Valley with peaks of the North Cascades National Park to the west.

In the fall, the larch in the vicinity of the pass provide beautiful fall color, with even more down to the southeast of the pass.

The myriad of informal trails to the north and south, both up and down, are indicative of the areas for further exploration, including loops on-trail and off-trail along with scrambles up ridges and peaks. Just be aware — the mountain goats, marmots, & pikas are watching you. Can you find them? 

 

Copper Pass via Twisp River

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.4586, -120.5675 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth

Copper Pass (#426), Twisp Pass (#432)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

100 Hikes in Washington’s North Cascades National Park Region (Spring & Manning

1994)

Buy the Green Trails Stehekin No. 82 map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

From Twisp, take the Twisp River Road (west on 2nd Ave) for 6.8 miles where it then becomes USFS Road 44.  Follow USFS Road 44 for 17.7 miles, where the trailhead is up the access road on the right.

Trailhead amenities include: parking for about 15 cars, vault toilet, picnic table, hitching rail, trail information sign with fee envelopes, and pay post.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Copper Pass via Twisp River

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