Heather Pass/Anne Lake
Rainy Pass rest area
This is a popular & spectacular hike which can only be done from about June 30 through September 15th depending on the years snow loads and weather. It is about 3.5 miles out and the same for the return, so 7 miles in total. This has about everything you could hope for in a northern Cascades hike with a relatively low sweat price. It is actually part of a full loop called Maple Pass which explains why the signs on the trailhead will say Maple Pass instead of Heather Pass. We could not do the whole loop because there were melting cornices at the ridge which comprises part of the trail and you do not want to walk on top of cornices lest they fall with you on them. (Cornice is an overhang of snow formed from the way snow melts over certain ridges or geometries of rock) This caused some interesting possibilities though. We could use and ice axe to climb the steep snow fields covering the rest of the trail. Then at hundreds of yards of height, slide all the way down at a controlled speed with the ice axe as your speed control by dragging the point. We practiced self belays and melted snow and filtered it to prepare the a future Mount Adams trip. At the peak height I climbed to the view was much more stupendous than my pictures as I did not bring the camera on this last ascent. There are mountain peaks in a circle all around you. Views were so stupendous I had to constantly shift from viewing to concentrating on footwork control. I highly recommend this hike. Under the snow at the pass lies heather plants waiting their chance to bloom. If snow is enough melted, you can continue up the to ridge on the left of Black Mt and go around the other side of Anne Lake from the pass. This sharp ridge trail will bring you down to the parking lot also. Sun Mountain Lodge at phone number 509-996-2211 gives guided tours over this trail if you need help with it. Start early in the day so you have plenty of time.
You could stay somewhere in the Winthrop area to access this hike. Then drive West from Winthrop (taking a left at the only four way stop on main street) on 20 West, on the North Cascades Highway to Washington Pass, and a little beyond that, at about 36 miles from Winthrop until you find the Rainy Pass Rest Area. There are a couple of trails here. Take the steep one marked as Maple Pass. The only trail decisions are at the point where one trail goes down to Anne Lake and the other goes right and up to the Heather Pass. There are small Cutthroat Trout in the lake for catch and release. The trailhead for Heather Pass which will be signed as Maple Pass is at
N 48º 31' 005" W 120º 44' 127"
. Heather Pass is at
N 48º 30' 545" W 120º 45' 847"
Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, bug repellant, film, and remember, this is wilderness backcountry travel. You must be responsible for informing yourself of the potential hazards and taking the necessary precautions. For example, if you see a buried branch in a snow field realize that upon melting at some point the branch will be flying back up so it is best to step right on it. At the edge of a snow field there is the most melted section which you should expect to crumble when your weight is placed on it. Step over that portion. Look downhill to see where you would land if you slip. Gauge the danger and step with the proper caution. Place your walking stick and then move one foot to a good strong foothold. Then once you feel that is secure, move the over foot to a secure foothold. Then repeat by moving your walking stick to another secure position, etc. I prefer an ice axe because it can be used to climb steep snow fields, and to slow sliding descents on them also.