North Cascades Classic
- Stunning views of the North Cascades
- Splendid seasonal waterfalls
- Abundant wildlife habitat
- Wonderful mountain Solitude
- Exciting cable car crossing
- Incredible Picket Range vantage points
The North Cascades Classic is an adventure into the remote wilderness of one of the least visited national parks in the USA due to its rugged backcountry. With over 6,000 feet of total elevation gain and loss over 35 miles, this trip is sure to put your knees and heart to the test, but the views are truly worthwhile. Old-growth forests and glacier-fed streams early in the trip are replaced by snow-covered peaks and alpine passes as we climb higher and go deeper into the backcountry. Wildflowers in early summer and wild berries right before fall make it a beautiful — and delicious — trip all summer long. A suspension bridge and cable car crossing over the Chiliwack River add to the excitement of this trip, as does the wildlife — bears, salmon, and more are common in this remote corner of the North Cascades.
Trip Dates & Booking
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- Shuttle to the trailhead: 3 hours
- Hiking Mileage: 4.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 600 feet
This multi-day North Cascades guided backpacking trip begins with a pick up at your hotel in Seattle, and then a scenic drive into the snowy mountains of the North Cascades. We’ll get our packs sorted at the trailhead, and walk a short distance to the Ross Lake boat ramp where we’ll meet our water taxi. Our adventure truly begins as we’re dropped off at a lakeside trailhead where Little Beaver Creek flows into Ross Lake. From the lake, we’ll ascend briefly up switchbacks and then parallel the creek upstream through a remote part of the North Cascades to our first night in the backcountry at Perry Creek.
- Hiking Mileage: 9.4 miles
- Elevation Gain: 650 feet
On the second day, we’ll continue to follow Little Beaver Creek through old growth forest, as we travel deeper into the backcountry up this glacier-carved valley. Throughout the day, we’ll have the opportunity to cross many small streams and we’ll ford the largest of the day at Redoubt Creek, which is fed from snow and glaciers along the southern flank of Mount Redoubt. Before we arrive at our camp at Twin Rocks, the valley begins widening up and we’ll be rewarded with views of the stunning Whatcom Peak in the distance.
- Hiking Mileage: 7.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
- Elevation Loss: 2,000 feet
Day 3 is our big uphill day as we leave behind Little Beaver Creek and begin to ascend switchbacks up to Whatcom Pass, where we will be rewarded with stunning views of the Picket Range of the North Cascades. On the other side of the pass, we’ll gradually descend 2,000 feet down to meet Brush Creek, keeping our eye out for ripe berries (depending on the season) and every so often a look back at Whatcom Pass and what we’ve accomplished. Eventually, we’ll make our camp for the night at Graybeal at the mouth of a small stream.
- Hiking Mileage: 6.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 760 feet
- Elevation Loss: 690 feet
Day 4 is full of small ups and downs and exciting river crossings. Early on in the day, we’ll descend the valley to cross a footbridge over Brush Creek, leaving it behind to join the Chiliwack River. After some dense brush we’ll cross the Chiliwack River on a famous cable car. Fording is an option for horses or those faint-of-heart, but the real adventure comes with hauling yourself across in a car suspended in the air! As we cross the river we’ll keep an eye out for salmon runs — depending on the time of year, we may see bright red Sockeye salmon pushing upstream to spawn. We’ll gradually climb up the valley to Copper Creek, where we’ll camp for our last night and enjoy one final gourmet backcountry dinner.
- Hiking Mileage: 7.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1,840 feet
- Elevation Loss: 1,940 feet
- Shuttle to Seattle: 3.5 hours
On our last day we’ll push up to Hannegan Pass — take in our last dramatic alpine views, and then descend back into the forest, past Ruth Creek, and to the trailhead where our shuttle vehicle awaits us. After sorting out our gear and saying goodbye to the trail, we’ll head back to Seattle and drop you at your hotel, where a hot shower and a soft bed will accompany your sense of satisfaction and pride from completing an epic North Cascades adventure.
Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.
- Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
- Use of trekking poles
- All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
- A professional, knowledgeable, certified North Cascades National Park hiking guide
- Comprehensive, roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Seattle and back
- All entrance fees, permits and passes
- Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
- You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!
- Clothes, raingear, and footwear
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
- Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
We provide all group gear which includes the following:
- Deuter or Osprey backpacks
- Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
- Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
- Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
- Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
- Cooking stoves and cookware
- Company-issued first-aid kit
- Satellite phone
We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.
Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).
Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!
This trip originates in Seattle, Washington, where you'll meet your guide and group for an orientation meeting the evening before your trip begins at 5:00 PM. Your guide will be in contact approximately 10 days before the trip start date to answer any questions you have and coordinate the orientation meeting.
Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.
Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).
Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.
The standard group size on North Cascades backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.
Age restrictions are as follows:
- 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
- 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis
The best hiking weather in the North Cascades is from mid June to late September, when the vast majority of trails (except ones up very high) are snow free. The west side of the Park catches the brunt of storm systems coming in from the Pacific Ocean, making the west side much wetter and more lush. The lower east side tends to be much warmer and drier throughout the summer. The west side receives on average 70+ inches more of precipitation and 400+ more inches of snowfall than the west side. Even with these discrpencies however, summer is a stunning time of year to be in the Cascades, on either side. See below for average temperatures and precipitation in North Cascades National Park:
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|
Camping on Backpacking Trips
Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.
Fresh & Delicious
Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.
In the Action
Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.