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North Cascades National Park

McAlester Lake/Pass Trail

McAlester Lake (elevation 5,500 ft or1680 m) and McAlester Pass (elevation 6,017 ft or 1834 m) offer scenic views of subalpine forests, meadows and lakes. Mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and subalpine larch are among the trees you will encounter in this spectacular Cascade crest area. Three different approaches are possible; from the north, east, or south. This general area offers several loop possibilities combined with portions of Bridge Creek and Rainbow Creek Trails.

Access via State Route 20
The Bridge Creek Trailhead is 1.2 miles (1.9 km) east of Rainy Pass, near milepost 159 of State Route 20. The trail heads south; parking is across the highway, to the north. The required Northwest Forest Pass can be obtained at any ranger station. Bridge Creek Trail follows a section of the 2,636 mile (4,242 km) Pacific Crest Trail. Enter North Cascades National Park after 1.4 miles (2.3 km). It is another 1.7 miles (2.7 km) to the junction of the Twisp Pass Trail. Turn left (east) and continue for .4 mile (.6 km) to the junction with the McAlester Creek Trail. Turn right (south) and after 1.6 miles (2.6 km) enter Lake Chelan National Recreation Area; it is another 2.5 miles (4 km) to McAlester Lake. Total hiking distance is 7.6 miles (12.2 km) to McAlester Lake and 8.5 miles (13.7 km) to McAlester Pass.

Creek Crossing
Shortly after the junction with the trail to Twisp Pass, the McAlester Pass Trail crosses the East Fork McAlester Creek. There is no bridge over the creek. This is a potentially hazardous creek crossing. Small logs may be spanning the creek. Crossing this creek safely can be difficult or impossible in early summer (June, July), during the peak of snow melt. Many hikers have been forced to turn back. Be sure to inquire at a ranger station about the current condition of this crossing.

Access via Twisp River Road
McAlester Pass can be accessed via the South Pass Trail out of Twisp River Valley. The trail begins at the South Creek Campground or the Twisp River Horse Camp along Twisp River Road. After 1 mile in the Okanogan National Forest you enter the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness. It is another 6.3 miles (10.1 km) to South Pass and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. It is another 1.4 miles (2.3 km) to McAlester Pass. Total hiking distance is 8.7 miles to McAlester Pass and 9.6 miles (15.4 km) to McAlester Lake.

Access via Stehekin
Follow the Stehekin Valley Road 2.5 miles (4 km) to Lower Rainbow Loop Trail. It is a 2.4 mile (3.9 km) hike up 800' (240 m) to Rainbow Creek Trail near Rainbow Bridge Camp. Then it is 7.9 miles (12.7 km) up 3,800' (1160 m) to McAlester Pass. Along the way there are three camps, Rainbow Ford (4.2 miles or 6.8 km), Bench Creek (5.2 miles or 8.4 km), where Rainbow Creek Trail branches off toward Rainbow Lake, and Bowan Camp (6.2 miles or 10 km).

McAlester Lake Camps
McAlester Lake has both a hiker camp and a stock camp at its north end. These are the most heavily used camps in the area. Fires are permitted at both the stock and hiker camps in the grates provided. Camping is no longer permitted on the lake shores to allow these fragile areas a chance to recover. These camps are 7.6 miles (12.2 km) from SR 20, 9.6 miles (15.4 km) from the Twisp River Road, and 10.3 miles (16.6 km) from Lower Rainbow Loop in Stehekin Valley.

High Camp
Located at the north end of McAlester Pass, this one-site hiker-only camp offers a splendid opportunity for solitude in a subalpine setting. Fires are not permitted. Camping is not permitted in the abandoned front site in order to allow the restoration of plants and soil in this denuded area.

Hidden Meadows Stock Camp
At over 6,300' (1920 m) in elevation, this stock camp in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is nestled in a spectacular subalpine meadow. Fires are allowed in the established fire pit. Grazing of stock is permitted in the Recreation Area, but not permitted in North Cascades National Park. A grazing permit must be obtained at the same time as the wilderness permit. Parties traveling off-trail are limited to a combination of six riders and stock.

Cross-Country Camping
The McAlester Pass area offers outstanding off-trail camping opportunities. A permit must be obtained for cross-country overnight stays. Cross-country travelers must camp at least 1 mile (1.6 km) from an established camp and at least 1/2 mile (.8 km) from the trail. Fires and camping in meadows are prohibited.

Information and permits are available from the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount (360-873-4500 ext. 39), the Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin (360-857-5700 ext. 340 then 14) and the Methow Valley Visitor Center in Winthrop (509-996-4000). A permit (no charge) is required for all stays in the National Park Service Complex backcountry. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at all National Forest and some National Park trailheads. Rangers have maps and current information to assist you in planning a safe, fun trip. Pets and firearms are prohibited in North Cascades National Park. However, within 50 feet of the Pacific Crest Trail and in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area pets are permitted, provided they are kept on leash. Hunting is permitted in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Washington State hunting and fishing regulations apply.




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