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North Cascades National Park

Big Beaver Trail

The Big Beaver trail covers 22.4 miles (one way, 36 km) between Ross Dam and the Little Beaver Trail at Stillwell Camp. It offers a pleasant hike of 1 to 4 days among groves of old growth cedar trees, clear, sparkling streams, and lush undergrowth. This area has biting insects during most of the summer. From Stillwell Camp it is possible to continue on the Little Beaver Trail for 11 more miles (18 km) to Ross Lake, or head upstream 6 miles (10 km) to Whatcom Pass.

Most hikers start at the Ross Dam Trail, which begins at a parking area near milepost 134 on State Route 20. The trail drops steeply for .8 miles (1.3 km) to a gravel service road. Go left on this road for a short way, then turn right down an incline to the top of Ross Dam. Cross the dam and continue north along the west shore of Ross Lake. A scheduled drop off or pickup by Ross Lake Resort's water taxi service (206-386-4437) can be arranged.

Along Ross Lake
It is 6 miles (10 km) of easy walking to Big Beaver Creek from the Dam. Look for evidence of a 1926 forest fire that burned a large area in the upper Skagit Valley and across Sourdough Mountain. The trail crosses several small creeks and offers glimpses of the lake through stands of lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir. Enjoy the special place where Pierce Creek cascades from its chasm, under the footbridge, to Ross Lake.

Big Beaver Creek
The trail up Big Beaver Valley begins just beyond the steel foot and stock bridge. Note that the creek is closed to fishing in the first quarter mile upstream of the mouth to allow spawning of native rainbow trout from Ross Lake.

Ancient Trees and Beaver Marshes
The trail up Big Beaver is a "tunnel of green," a rich spectrum of forest and water communities. About 3 miles (5 km) above the bridge hikers enter one of the finest stands of ancient redcedar trees to be found anywhere. Some trees are over 15 feet in diameter and 1,000 years old. The trail skirts acres of active beaver ponds and marshy areas teeming with plant and animal life.

Research Natural Area
Watch and wait, patience may be rewarded with sightings or sounds of beaver, otter, ducks, black bear, or deer. Careful observations will reveal marsh birds, Common Yellowthroat, Barrow's Goldeneye and possibly tree nesting ducks like Common Merganser and Wood Duck. In 1991 the rare, unspoiled Big Beaver marsh land was designated a Research Natural Area - a place to observe and learn from ongoing natural processes.

McMillan: Man and Mountain
7 miles above Ross Lake one can look up the gorge of McMillan Creek toward McMillan Cirque and McMillan Spires. These places were named for mountain man John McMillan, who came here in 1884. John homesteaded in this beautiful, lonesome Big Beaver valley where he brought his bride, Emma, to join in a life of subsistence (trapping, prospecting, packing) and adventure. Emma and friends buried John beside Big Beaver Creek in 1922.

Beaver Pass and the Beaver Loop
Thirteen miles (21 km) from Ross Lake, hikers arrive at the forested saddle of Beaver Pass. From here, hikers can continue for one mile (1.6 km) downhill to the Little Beaver Trail junction. The semi-loop hike from Big Beaver to Little Beaver landing on Ross Lake is 34 trail miles. A boat taxi from Little Beaver can be prearranged to complete a loop trip. There are no connecting trails from Little Beaver landing.

There are many designated campsites along the Big Beaver Trail. Stock parties must use designated livestock camps. Please check with the ranger station for availabilities and limits.

Permits / Information
Pets and firearms are prohibited in the National Park; however, hunting is permitted in Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Washington State hunting and fishing regulations apply. Be sure to stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360-873-4500 ext. 39). A permit (no charge) is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Rangers have maps and current information to assist you in planning a safe, fun trip.




For Additional Information Contact:

North Cascades National Park
2105 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-9394
(360) 856-5700


For more information visit the National Park Service website