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Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area
View map below

Length

5.6 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1500 ft.
Highest Point: 5699 ft.

Rating

4.00 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2020
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Disregarding the apocryphal stories about their name, the Damfino Lakes are noteworthy only to distinguish this route from two other routes to the same destinations. And the lakes pale in comparison to these magnificent locations: Excelsior Pass, the High Divide, and Excelsior Peak.

But to get there, you'll have to brave the road to the trailhead. Canyon Creek Road is narrow, rough, and badly potholed in spots. However, it does offer access to a pleasant and short trail to Excelsior Pass and all that lies beyond. The road is longer but the hike is shorter and has less elevation gain than the route from either end of the High Divide Trail.

The trail begins in old-growth forest, thick enough to provide shade but thin enough to allow filtered sunlight in. It gains elevation moderately to a junction with the Canyon Ridge trail at two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead. At the junction, continue straight, then drop slightly as the tree canopy opens to a swampy area holding huckleberry bushes, a small lake, and a couple of ponds: these are the Damfino Lakes.

After a quarter mile of flat terrain, you climb again in shady forest until the trail again levels off at just over 5000 feet. At 2.0 miles the forest gives way to rolling meadows and views of Excelsior Pass. Two hundred yards ahead, rock-hop a stream then climb through open meadows the remaining half mile to Excelsior Pass, elevation 5375 feet. A wooden post marks the junction with the High Divide Trail #630, both from its start at the Excelsior Pass trailhead, and its continuation east along the Divide toward Welcome Pass and eventually the Welcome Pass trailhead.

It’s decision time. Just uphill of the wooden post is an obvious boot path leading up to the top of Excelsior Peak. This direct route is 5.6 miles round trip from the parking lot. Or, straight ahead, the High Divide trail traverses below the Peak. If you have the time, follow the High Divide Trail, gently ascending through lupine and sedge.

Fall colors are spectacular along this section. One half mile from Excelsior Pass is another pass along the Divide. This one has a boot path ascending Excelsior Peak from the east. Continue along the Divide as far as you like. Then on your return, ascend the boot path to the summit of Excelsior Peak and enjoy the full 360 degree views. You can take the west boot path back down to Excelsior Pass, then out to the trailhead on familiar trail. Even if you go no further along the Divide, this recommended loop is a round trip of only 6.4 miles, leaving you plenty of time for other options.

 

Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.9593, -121.8070 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mount Baker Area

Damfino Lakes (#625), High Divide (#630)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Download a map to plan your hike

Buy the Green Trails Mount Baker No. 13 map

Getting There

From I-5 exit 255, drive State Route 542 33 miles to the Glacier Public Service Center (GPSC) just past the town of Glacier. From the GPSC, continue east on SR 542 1.8 miles. Turn left on Canyon Creek Road (FR-31), a one-lane paved road. After 7.4 miles, the road deteriorates to gravel and dirt with large potholes, alternating with badly eroded patchy pavement. At 8.5 miles, go straight. At 9.3 miles cross Canyon Creek on a bridge, then turn right to stay on pavement. At 11.6 miles, stay left. This is the end of the patchy pavement; the unpaved road ahead is an improvement. At 15.3 miles, stay left again. The trailhead is at the end of FR-31, 16.7 miles from the turnoff from 542. There is a vault toilet and parking for about 15 vehicles.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Excelsior Peak via Damfino Lakes Trail

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