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.
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
Access via Stehekin
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
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.
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
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.
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