There's really only one way to go: starting from Ross Dam go up Big Beaver and over Beaver Pass, up Little Beaver to Whatcom Pass and down Brush Creek to reach the Chilliwack River. From the Chilliwack, the quickest exit is up the river to Hannegan Pass and down Ruth Creek to the trailhead. However, that misses the best trail, and the best views, in the North Cascades: Copper Ridge. Steve, his brother Pete and I hiked to the Copper Ridge lookout two years ago and that pretty much made it impossible to skip. It adds about ten miles to the route and includes a hefty climb from the Chilliwack up to the ridge, but it's just too beautiful not to do (even when you're socked in by clouds!). This trip I didn't take any pictures on the section of Big Beaver I did in May; pictures of the great old growth in the valley are here.
(trail conditions report at bottom of this post)
|4:40am start at Ross Dam|
|These guys were all over the trail pre-dawn, glad I didn't step on any|
|Brush issues past Luna Camp|
|Peak-a-boo view of the Pickets: Crooked Thumb (r) and Phantom Peak|
|Beaver Pass shelter|
|Little Beaver Creek|
|Quite bad brush for two miles in the upper Little Beaver|
|More of the same|
|But at least the views open up; Whatcom Peak (r) and the ridge NE of Mount Challenger|
|Great falls in the upper Little Beaver|
|Whatcom Peak and glacier|
|The one bad section of blowdown/debris; about 6-8 trees of crawl-under and climb-over fun|
|looking back at the second half of that section|
|Follow the strategically-placed flag!|
|Looking back down Little Beaver|
|Yyyeessssss; Whatcom Peak, Perfect Pass and the western side of the Challenger Glacier|
|The well-engineered switchbacks up to Whatcom Pass|
|The mighty Challenger Glacier, with summit hidden in the clouds|
|Meadows below Whatcom Pass with the extensive ridge NE of Challenger|
|USGS marker at Whatcom Pass|
|Whatcom Peak and the ridge west toward Easy Peak|
|Ridge between Whatcom and Easy peaks, from the Brush Creek trail|
|Chilliwack River trail junction; head north for Copper Ridge|
|Cool and wobbly suspension bridge over Indian Creek|
|Turn down to ford the Chilliwack toward Copper Ridge|
|So cool! Spawning Sockeye salmon in Indian Creek|
|First ford, Indian Creek, currently not an issue at all; note flagging on the far side|
|Second ford, Chilliwack River, also no problem|
|Nearing the top of the climb from the Chilliwack to Copper Ridge; I was in no mood to take pictures on the way up|
|Backpackers heading down to make camp at Copper Lake|
|Final climb up to the Copper Ridge lookout|
|Not much to look out at...|
|Back on familiar terrain; 10 miles from here to the trailhead|
|The resident grouse around the lookout|
|Copper Ridge trail|
|Mineral Mountain (r) and the north ridge of Easy Peak|
|Copper Ridge trail and Ruth Mountain|
|Last climb from Boundary Camp to Hannegan Pass|
|Really, really tired; 16 hours car-to-car|
|For reference, here is the view from the Copper Ridge lookout when it's clear; I took this in October 2012, looking from SW to NE|
- Big Beaver: a few blowdowns, brushed to Luna camp; brush issues between Luna and Beaver Pass.
- Little Beaver: two miles of very brushy trail once you start to reach the upper valley before the lower set of switchbacks. A large blowdown/debris area there as well that requires climbing and ducking over a set of six or so big trees (photos below).
- Brush Creek: CLEAR! NPS trail crew working on Whatcom Camp area and met one of the team who was brushing it as I came down; I couldn't thank him enough.
- Chilliwack River: a bit of brush and blowdown, but nothing too onerous; mostly step-overs. The salmon are running in Indian Creek (the first ford) and the fording routes are flagged. Not very deep (upper shin) or strong. I didn't need a stick to cross either.
- Copper Ridge: handful of blowdowns between the river and gaining the ridge proper. A couple are crawl-under trees. Trail is great from gaining the ridge all the way down to Boundary Camp as it sees a lot of traffic.
- Hannegan Pass/Ruth Creek: well-maintained, some brushing has been done, no issues.