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Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail

Updated: Jul 9

North Cascades National Park, Washington, 2023


Whenever I get together with fellow Pacific Northwest (PNW) hikers and we start swapping stories and favorite hikes, this one always comes up. (As a member of the 100 Classic Hikes: Washington [full list here], it's honestly no surprise that it is a constant recommendation.) I am so tired of the surprised looks I get when I tell people I haven't crushed this one yet, that I placed it at the top of my 2023 Hike (bucket)List for Washington, with a goal to cross it off during the fall color extravaganza.

Today, I am proud to shout, "CROSSED OFF!"

(but still on the list 😅)

There is no greater toxic trait than a PNW hiker's hope on a cloudy day. Hope that the clouds will clear. Hope that the sun will break through at the summit. Hope that we'll hike above the clouds and be treated to an inversion experience that will make others green with envy. Hope that the clouds will treat us to moody, gorgeous lighting. HOPE.

I had hope...

Hope's Location of Death: Sahale Arm Trail, Mile 6, 3100' Elevation Gain


Length: 11.65 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,963 feet Max Elevation: 7,605 feet

Route Type: Out and Back

AllTrails Difficulty: Hard

Pups: Sorry, not welcome



I downloaded the navigation for Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail from AllTrails. The trail is well-trafficked and easy to follow, but there are several branching trails once you pass the Cascade Pass view point. (And, if you don't know yet, AllTrails lies about trail length and ascent 😉)

This trail is bursting with wildlife! We saw numerous pika, several marmots, a flock of white-tailed ptarmigan, a beaver, and a black bear - we were coming around the third switchback from the parking lot and ran into a large, gorgeous black bear on trail (no, I did not get a photo, I was too busy backing down the trail). At time of blog entry, the picnic tables at the parking area and Johannesburg camp are closed until further notice due to recent incidents of bears obtaining human food rewards from improper food storage. I cannot stress this enough: A fed bear is a dead bear.

"A bear's keen sense of smell leads it to insects, nuts and berries, but the animal is also enticed by the tantalizing smells of human food and garbage such as hot dogs, apple cores, and cookies left on the ground in picnic areas, campgrounds, and along trails. Feeding bears or allowing them access to human food and garbage causes a number of problems:

  • It changes the bear's behavior and causes them to lose their instinctive fear of humans. Over time, these bears may begin approaching people in search of food and may become more unpredictable and dangerous.

  • Bears that obtain human food and garbage may damage property and injure people. These bears pose a risk to public safety. Often, they must be euthanized.

  • Studies have shown that bears that lose their fear of people by obtaining human food and garbage never live as long as bears that feed on natural foods and are shy and afraid of people. Many are hit by cars and become easy targets for poachers.

For these reasons, park rangers issue citations for littering, feeding bears, and for improper food storage. These citations can result in fines of up to $5,000 and jail sentences lasting up to six months." National Park Service

Trail Popularity: this is a very popular area for backpacking and hiking. While the parking lot was relatively empty at time of arrival and departure, we still encountered a significant number of fellow PNW hikers with our same hope.



The easiest way to get to the Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail trailhead is to use the navigation system of your choice with your destination set as Cascade Pass Trailhead. Parking is free (yay!)

SEASONAL ROAD CLOSURE: Roads in North Cascades National Park are subject to seasonal closure due to winter conditions. For more information, please visit the National Park Service's Plan Your Visit website.



As a member of the 100 Classic Hikes of Washington, this hike should sit high on everyone's to-be-hiked list! Nestled deep within Washington's version of the Alps, this trail provides jaw dropping views of the surrounding North Cascades and fall colors that every leaf peeper dreams about.



  • Be Shoulder Season Prepared. The shoulder seasons fall between the main months of mountain activity, when it's too cold for the normal hiking season, but not snowy enough to snowshoe. The gear I wear changes from hike to hike and depends largely on weather forecasts and trail conditions. A lot of the gear I wear in the winter I carry in my pack during shoulder season because I want to have extra layers in case I need them - this includes my micro spikes, you never know when you will encounter icy or snowy conditions at higher elevations.

  • Be Bear Aware. Tips for Hiking in Bear Country:

    • Do not feed bears or other wildlife.

    • Visit or call the local Forest Service office to learn about special requirements or guidelines for the area.

    • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

    • Read all signs at trailheads.

    • Stay alert, do not wear headphones and cautiously approach any blind corners in the trail.

    • Carry bear spray that is easily accessible and know how to use it.

    • Hike as a group, keep children with you and dogs leashed.

    • Make plenty of noise.

    • For extended trips, keep food and other attractants in bear resistant containers.

    • If you see a bear, maintain a safe distance and alter your route to avoid the bear. Never block a bear's travel route.

    • If you see a cub alone, don't approach. Momma bear could be nearby.


 Darcy Wanders 



Welcome to Darcy Wanders! I'm Darcy, the wanderer and writer for all things Darcy Wanders.

I love hiking, camping, paddling, and wandering new places! When I'm not wandering, I turn to books, puzzles, and dreaming up plans for my next epic adventure.

I believe the outdoors is for everyone and created Darcy Wanders as a way to share incredible hikes, gear recommendations, and educate on things such as trail etiquette and leave no trace principles. 

happy wandering!

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