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North Cascades National Park

Desolation Peak Trail

Desolation Peak Trail is a steep hike to open meadows, grand vistas and a historic fire lookout. Know your limits, the trail gains 4400 feet in 6.8 miles (1340 m in 10.9 km). Carry plenty of water: the only water source after the trail leaves Ross Lake is snow, which is usually gone by early July.

Access is at mile 16 on the Eastbank Trail, or from Ross Lake by boat. The East Bank Trailhead is located near milepost 138 on State Route 20. Boat transportation from Ross Lake Resort (206-386-4437) may be arranged to the Desolation Trailhead. Hikers also can access the trail and lake from Hozomeen campground on the US-Canadian Border.

Views and Sun
The trail begins gently, with lakeside views. After two miles (3.2 km), the trail turns east and begins to climb. Enjoy the cool forest and the last water. The forest tapers off to exposed subalpine vegetation. Watch for views of Hozomeen Mountain to the north, the Picket Range and Ross Lake to the west, Jack Mountain to the south, and Skagit Peak to the east.

Diversity of Life
Desolation Peak Trail takes the hiker from low elevation forests to subalpine meadows. It also allows discovery of plant species from the dryer east-side which grow on this west slope . Ponderosa and lodgepole pine can be found. Watch for wildlife: deer, bear, cougar, grouse, and marmots.

Renewed by Fire
Along the trail, one can find remains of charred wood. A major burn occurred in 1926. Periodic fire created the meadows. Opportunistic plants and animals thrive in the open space that results from fire. This mountain is a place of striking variety.

The Lookout
Lookouts are places vacillating between an experience far from the world and the thunderous reality of a mountain storm. Desolation is noted for extreme changes in weather. The people who worked in lookout stations either possessed a fitting solitary character, soon gained it, or made excuses to leave. Beatnik poet Jack Kerouac served as the lookout here in 1956. He wrote the classic book Desolation Angels from that experience. Kerouac described the looming twin peaks of Hozomeen Mountain as "the void."
Note: Desolation Lookout is closed to the public.

Designated campsites are located on the ridge one mile (1.6 km) below the lookout. The only water source is snow, which is gone by early July. Fires are not permitted.

Be sure to stop at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360-873-4500 ext. 39) or the ranger station at Hozomeen. A permit (no charge) is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Hunting is permitted in Ross Lake National Recreation Area in accordance with Washington State Hunting Regulations. 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