Suiattle Crest 50 Mile Loop


Colin Abercrombie and I completed a 50 mile loop in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that includes 12,500+ ft of elevation gain and passes through six passes (Little Giant Pass, High Pass, Buck Creek Pass, Suiattle Pass, Cloudy Pass, Spider Gap). The 50 mile distance was not contrived – we simply used existing trails and routes that made the most sense. We did the loop in 13:37, but our progress was often slowed by stops to photograph the amazing scenery. A large portion of this extremely aesthetic loop follows near the Cascade crest along the Suiattle River drainage, hence the name “Suiattle Crest 50 mile.” The first 16 miles are particularly challenging with steep hill climbs, thick brush, off-trail travel, and routefinding issues. The remainder of the route is more straightforward and the last 13 miles are very runnable. For splits and many more photos, check out the complete trip report on CascadeClimbers or nwhikers.

Colin designed this giant loop which is remarkably close to 50 miles in distance and covers virtually all the highlights in the region. There are essentially two scenic areas of the loop – the Napeequa Valley/High Pass region and the Lyman Lakes area – separated by 10+ miles of relatively uninteresting trail in the woods between Buck Creek Pass and Suiattle Pass, with a significant extra hill climb over Middle Ridge. It was during this middle section in the woods that I felt a bit fatigued, but once we saw the scenery of the Lyman Lakes basin I was rejuvenated for the final climb and finish through Phelps Creek Valley.

View from near High Pass

View from near High Pass

We started at Little Giant TH and I recommend doing the route clockwise beginning with the climb up to Little Giant Pass. The first 16 miles from Little Giant TH to High Pass are the most arduous with the steepest climbs, brush (very wet and very cold from dew in the morning), some off-trail travel, and routefinding issues. After High Pass, the complexities are mainly over as the trails improve allowing for more running. Doing the loop clockwise provides for a relatively easy 13-mile finish along the Phelps Creek Trail and dirt road from Phelps Creek TH back to Little Giant TH. A shorter option that is very popular with backpackers is the ~37 mile Spider Gap/Buck Creek Pass Loop. This option avoids the complexities of Napeequa Valley and the ascent to High Pass, but the beautiful scenery in the Napeequa Valley and around High Pass is well worth the extra effort and mileage.

Oversimplified aerial route map - click for larger version

Oversimplified aerial route map - click for larger version

Check out the complete trip report with splite and many more photos on CascadeClimbers or nwhikers.

8 Responses to “Suiattle Crest 50 Mile Loop”

  1. Buzz Says:

    Good for you for putting together an excellent route. Sounds top notch. Makes it hard to get real interested in paying $100 to enter a race, running with hundreds of other people on a much worse route, often at the wrong time of year.

    • pantilat Says:

      I agree Buzz! This is one that just makes sense – a giant 50 mile loop through amazing scenery.

      I’ve added a much oversimplified aerial route map to the post showing the six passes (yellow).

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