Copper Ridge Backpacking
DATE HIKED: 8/31-9/2
TOTAL DISTANCE: 22 miles
DIFFICULTY: MODERATELY DIFFICULT
REQUIRED PERMIT: YES
DOG FRIENDLY: NO
LOCATION: NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK
Copper Ridge Loop had been on my list to do (what isn’t) for some time. When April came around this year I applied for the loop for Labor Day weekend hoping to take no additional work days off for it. It seemed like a long shot to get the itinerary I wanted on a holiday weekend, but sometime later I got an email from the park service saying I got it! When the time came around to actually do the hike I was feeling less than thrilled about it though. It was one week after the Teton Crest Trail and I was feeling burnt out from hiking. I ultimately decided to shorten my itinerary and not do the whole loop, but do the ridge out and back. This way I could see all the mountain views I wanted and not do the extra mileage and gain. The whole loop is 34 miles and 8,00+ gain. We did 22 miles and maybe 7,000 gain. I was really happy with this decision and the way we did it. If you want to do the famous cable car that crosses a river than do the whole loop. If you really like trees and rivers then do the whole loop.
My friend Katherine and I would leave earlier on the 31st. I had an idea of hiking into Hannegan camp (about 4 miles in) to lessen the mileage of our first day. We went to the Glacier ranger station to pick up my permit and we were actually able to add a night onto my itinerary for Boundary camp (it is the first permitted camp on the trail). It was about 5.5 miles in on the trail. A bear can is not required for this trail. Some of the camps have a bear storage unit and some you are required to hang your food. Most all of the camps have pit toilets as well. The trailhead is washed out badly, so parking is mostly up and down the road right before the official parking lot. It was busy because of the holiday weekend and we saw lots of people going and leaving. The hike to Hannegan Pass is relatively quick and painless. There are lots of nice camping options around there that don’t require a permit. We continued on to Boundary camp. We didn’t see any others there when we arrived and picked a nice campsite close to the sound of the river nearby. It was mostly cloudy and socked in on this day, but still a beautiful day in the North Cascades.
We didn’t rush out of camp the next day and took our time packing up and heading up the ridge. This day would bring about 7 miles and a couple thousand gain. The gain was tough with heavy packs and the mountains were socked in. The huckleberries were at their prime. We saw few people in the remote area. I love the rugged wilderness of the North Cascades.
My friend Catherine and her friend met us on the trail midday to join in on my permit (I had 4 spots). They took the permit and finished the loop while we hiked out the following day. Together the 4 of us hiked to the fire lookout. We signed the guest registry and I found my friend Nikki’s (@drawntohighplaces) work in it. We sat up top enjoying the views and relaxing before the last push to camp.
We had something like a mile to Copper Lake- our campsite for the night. We descended to the gorgeous alpine lake and found a spot for our 2 tents. We explored the area and turned in early for the night as it was awfully cold and dark early. The official end of summer was here.
The next morning we woke to the most glorious sunrise. One of my favorite moments of this trip was soaking in the sun by the lake and having so much fun taking photos.
We departed ways with Catherine and the other Katherine and I headed back up the ridge. The views were clearer at the lookout this time. I’m so happy we got to experience it multiple times! Mt. Baker and Shuksan finally showed themselves in full glory as well.
On our way out we had been warned that there was a bear ahead a little down from the trail. We cautiously (and loudly) made our way and kept walking and didn’t see it. We thought we had missed it when all of a sudden we turned a corner and up the trail we saw a large mama bear and a baby bear. I think we both frightened each other and they ran further up the hillside. I had not seen a baby bear like that on trail before. It was quite cute, but a little too close for comfort. The last few miles seemed to last forever hiking out and we were totally over it. It was pure relief to get to the car and be done hiking.
Some other possible itineraries:
Silesia camp would be one of the prettiest camping options. It is the only camp high up on the ridge with mountain views around. It’s probably about 8 miles in on the trail. I would definitely come back to camp in this spot.