Light Backpacking in the North Cascades

North Cascades | Washington
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to backpack in the North Cascades

  • Trip Highlight

    Discover the ever-changing terrain and rich flora and fauna

  • Trip Highlight

    Feel a sense of tranquility and admire the otherworldly vistas

  • Trip Highlight

    Captivating wilderness allows for amazing photo ops every step of the way

Often dubbed “the American Alps” due to the jagged mountain peaks, open alpine meadows, stunning rivers, and wooded valleys, the North Cascades are an absolute gem for anyone who appreciates wild backpacking trips! With miles upon miles of trails and breathtaking vistas at every turn, the northern part of the colossal Cascade Range will definitely not fail to deliver. While traversing this rugged wilderness west to east, the area offers numerous ecoregions and superb terrain. Discover temperate rainforests in the shadows of Mt. Baker and old-growth forests to the scenic mountain passes, jaw-dropping mountains, splendid rivers, and glacial turquoise lakes. The North Cascades are also known for their biodiversity and abundant wildlife, making this a perfect opportunity to trek through unspoiled wilderness. Join a guide, pack lightly, and come see what all the fuss is about!


July through September

Nearest city

Seattle, WA, is 2 hours away


7 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced


Choose how you spend your days

7-Day Light Backpacking Group Tour

7 days

Embark upon a light backpacking adventure and feel the peace that the North Cascades offer! This seven-day trip into the true wilderness is a perfect way to discover diverse terrain, mind-boggling vistas, and rich diversity of plant and animal life. Trek through old-growth forests, temperate rainforests, gorgeous mountain passes, valleys, and open meadows and witness the awe-inspiring mountain tops. Join your knowledgeable guide and make this rugged wilderness your home for a full week!

7-Day Light Backpacking Private Tour

7 days

Head out on a private guided backpacking tour of the North Cascades and discover the serene wilderness of the “American Alps”. Hire a private guide all to yourself and let them show you the ever-changing and versatile terrain, breathtaking views, and amazing wildlife. Trek through magnificent old-growth forests and temperate rainforests, stunning mountain passes, valleys, and open meadows, and admire the rugged mountains all around you. Cool off with a swim in glacial lakes along the way and make memories that will last a lifetime!

Trip Highlights


Day 1: Getting to the trailhead

You’ll meet your guide at 8:30 am in downtown Seattle (or arrange your own transportation to Whatcom Falls State Park) for a quick gear check and orientation. After that, you’ll drive for three hours through the magnificent Skagit Valley to the Hannegan Pass trailhead. Once you get there, your backpacking adventure can begin! You’ll test out your legs as you climb up and over Hannegan Pass and down the trail going through immense old-growth forests along with some phenomenal views.

Backpackers on an adventure in the North Cascades

Days 2-6: Discovering the North Cascades

The following five days will be spent moving quickly on trails over five scenic mountain passes—Hannegan Pass, Whatcom Pass, Beaver Pass, Fourth of July Pass, and Park Creek Pass. You’ll then trek through an old-growth forest and cross some small rivers and eventually set up a camp each night with gorgeous views all around you. Some days you’ll hike all the way to sunset. Although this light backpacking trip is fast-paced, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy and soak up all the pleasures that come with backpacking! Take some of the most amazing photos of the expansive landscapes, admire the incredible wildlife sightings and cool off in the glacial lakes along the way. You’ll be camped near Lake Chelan.

A backpacker in the North Cascades

Day 7: Stehekin Lodge and Return to Seattle

On the last day of this exciting adventure, you’ll go for a final 2-3 mile hike and reach Stehekin Lodge at the headwaters of Lake Chelan, where you’ll have celebratory lunch before boarding the de Havilland Beaver seaplane for a scenic flight through the Cascades and back to Seattle.

Lake Chelan, Stehekin, WA

Reviews (2)

Annie S. about Indigo Alpine Guides on Indigo Alpine Guides’ webpage

Backpacking with Jack taught me so much! You can tell he’s made the mountains his home — thanks for an awesome trip!

Jesse F. about Indigo Alpine Guides on Indigo Alpine Guides’ webpage

Wow! This trip showed me what a waste a heavy backpack is. Thanks for changing the way I experience the mountains. Less is more.

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Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in the North Cascades

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in the North Cascades, WA, please refer to Washington State Department of Health and Washington State Coronavirus Response.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get on this adventure:

    • An experienced hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • 7 days of backpacking
    • Lunch at Stehekin Lodge
    • Transportation to the trailhead including a float plane flight from Lake Chelan to Seattle
    • All group gear (maps, compass, first aid kit, stoves, fuel, water filtration, emergency communication device, toilet paper and trowel)

What’s not included:

    • Transportation before the beginning of the adventure and from Northwest Seaplanes to your final destination (taxi is readily available)
    • Personal clothing and equipment (backpack, tent, sleeping gear, headlamps, etc.)
    • Food
    • Medical/evacuation insurance
    • Trip cancellation insurance

How fit do I need to be?

In order to participate in this fast-paced adventure, you need to be in prime hiking shape and an intermediate to advanced backpacker. You’ll be moving quickly and covering lots of ground. You need to be ready to push yourself and be in shape for this trip so that you can walk long hours. You’ll be hiking 10-20 miles per day on trails over rugged terrain with elevation gain ranging from 900-2600 m. You need to be ready to leave the weight behind and bring the bare essentials—all with the help of your guide.

What do I need to bring?

Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

    • Day pack large enough to carry all the items listed (around a 25-40L bag)
    • Hiking poles — optional
    • Water bottle or hydration bladder (2L capacity)
    • Lightweight hiking boots or shoes
    • Spare clothes for layering
    • Waterproof rain jacket
    • Sunhat
    • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, etc.)
    • Tent and sleeping gear
    • Headlamp or flashlight
    • Sunglasses
    • Food (the guide will provide a suggested menu for ultralight eating)
    • Camera — optional (but recommended)

Dress comfortably and for the weather in clothes you can move in. We suggest bringing clothing appropriate for the season. Layers are best and don’t wear jeans.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and prices:

    • For the group trip, the max client to guide ratio is 6:1
    • For the private tour, the min client to guide ratio is 4:1. Private tours can be arranged for bigger groups, but it takes a minimum of 4 people for the tour to run.
    • The cost does not decrease as the group grows.

Backpacking in the North Cascades can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
    • Minors younger than 18 may be permitted to join the hike on a case-by-case basis, but must be in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.

If your group has backpackers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to the North Cascades, most people fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, about 2.5 hours from North Cascades National Park. From there, you can rent a car or ride the light rail to get to downtown Seattle, where you’ll meet up with your guide and drive through Skagit Valley towards the Hannegan Pass trailhead.

You can also arrange your own transportation to Whatcom Falls State Park.The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.

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Wired for a better world

Outdoor adventuring makes us fall in love with our planet and people, it gets our brains rewired differently and forces us to rethink our life priorities.

For years, we’ve dreamt of building a company that can make an impact on things that we deeply care about. Here are some initiatives we are grateful to be contributing to.

1% of our sales goes to environmental non-profits
We provide work to thousands of local guides worldwide
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