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Complete Guide to the Mount McCausland Trail

The hike up to the summit of Mount McCausland is an incredible day trip of moderate difficulty and with beautiful views of Lake Valhalla, Lichtenberg Mountain, and the never-disappointing Glacier Peak.

Mount McCausland is a Central Cascades peak that reaches its summit at 5,747". Compared to other Cascade high points, Mount McCausland is an easy day out. It's a walk-up, meaning that it requires no technical skills.

If you're looking for an escape from the crowds on the Lake Valhalla trail, the detour up to Mount McCausland may be just the thing. But despite its non-technical nature, it's no simple walk!

The Mount McCausland Trail is one of Traverse the Pacific Northwest's Top 12 Best Hikes Near Leavenworth. Have you done them all yet? Let us know what you think of this one below.

Mount McCausland Trailhead

The Mount McCausland trail starts at the Smithbrook Trailhead. It is north of Stevens Pass and will be snow-covered in the winter (there may also be snow in the early summer) so make sure to keep an eye on conditions and bring the right gear with you.

Directions to Mount McCausland

Use the map below to navigate the Mount McCausland trail at the Smithbrook Trailhead. It's approximately 45 minutes from Leavenworth and 1 hr and 15 minutes from Wenatchee. If you're coming from Seattle, you can expect to make a trip of just under 2 hours.

Forest Road 6700 is fairly nice, and any well-driven car will make it to the trailhead with no problem!

Best Time to Hike Mount McCausland

The best time to visit this peak is between June and October. Its relatively short approach makes it an ideal option for someone looking to bag lower peaks around Leavenworth.

Mount Mccausland Weather

  • If you're hiking Mount McCausland, you can expect the temperature to be in the mid-60s, as a high in the summer and lows in the 40s.

  • In the winter, the highs can be as low as 24 degrees F!

Hiking Mount McCausland


Elevation Gain

Time Required


7 miles




The trail to Mount McCausland starts at the Smithbrook Trailhead. It is the same trail you'd take if you wanted to visit Valhalla Lake. The trailhead is at an elevation of 3,800 ft.

Make sure to check out our Lake Valhalla Trail Guide for everything you need to know about this beautiful lake hike.

The mountain is on the north side of Lake Valhalla and is a fairly straightforward hike in Henry M. Jackson Wilderness.

Artist representation of the last portion of the Mount McCausland trail
Representation of the last part of the Mount McCausland trail.
Artist Credit: Emma H. Baldwin

From the parking lot on Rainy Creek Road or USFS 6700 Rd, you'll head towards Smith Brook before encountering a series of short, easy-to-climb switchbacks before you make a large loop on a softly graded trail.

If you're going to Lake Valhalla, this is the hardest part of the trail. But, for those set on seeing the incredible view from Mount McCausland, there is one final section of steep terrain at the end of the hike.

Did you know? The orignal summit register box was stolen from the mountain 1998. Talk about bad mountain mojo!

It's here, about 1 mile into the trail, that you'll go left (avoiding the upper trail that joins with the PCT). Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a few mountain views along this section of trail.

Lake Valhalla
Lake Valhalla below Mount McCausland

The next part of the trail is the flattest. You'll gain almost no elevation. Two miles in, you'll get to an intersection with a cairn. At the cairn, veer right towards Mt McCausland. Going straight takes you right to Lake Valhalla, only 0.3 miles away (there is a backcountry toilet here if you want to make a detour to it).

The next 0.5 miles of the trail are the steepest and most overgrown that you've encountered so far. But, don't worry, it's pretty short, and before you know it, you'll see the expansive views around you. This section of the trail can be muddy and wet all season long, so be mindful of slipping! The trail cuts across the hillside, but it'll be worth it!

Did you know? Mount McCausland is named after Norman McCausland in 1988.

If you look down at Lake Valhalla, you'll see the beautiful Mt. Lichtenberg on the other side of the lake. Its much more complicated summit features difficult scrambling routes and even true rock climbing! Further in the distance is Valhalla Mountain at an elevation of 5,204'.

Around you are other mountains like Scrabble Mountain (5,693'), Jove Peak (5,925'), and Rock Mountain (6,847'). On a clear day, you can even see Glacier Peak in the distance!

Make sure to turn around and descend the same way you came up. Most hikers like to stop off at Lake Vahalla and enjoy some time by the water. The water is usually cold but the lovely sandy beaches make a wonderful place to sit in the sun and enjoy this beautiful area of the Pacific Northwest just a little longer.

Artist representation of Mt. Lichtenberg and Lake Valhalla
Artist representation of Mt. Lichtenberg and Lake Valhalla
Artist Credit: Emma H. Baldwin

Mount McCausland via Stevens Pass

Did you know there is another route up Mount McCausland? You can approach the hike from Stevens Pass. For most hikers, the additional 8 miles this approach adds is not worth the effort.

But, some snowshoers choose this approach to the lake in the winter season.

While the trailhead for this specific route is much higher, at 4,061', it does require a lot more effort to get to the top of the mountain. It starts at the Stevens Pass ski area in the north parking lot. Take the road behind the maintenance shed (part of the PCT north). Hike along this trail for around 7 miles before reaching Lake Valhalla. Use the above directions from the lake to reach the summit.

If you go this route, be prepared for:

  • 7.5 miles of hiking each way

  • An 8-hour round-trip adventure

Mount McCausland Snowshoeing

Mount McCausland is sometimes climbed in winter as a snowshoe route! This increases the difficulty of the hike substantially but is a great challenge for anyone bored of being cooped up away from the mountains for months at a time.

The road to the trailhead won't be completely plowed. This means you'll have to snowshoe in an additional 2.5 or so miles to reach the trailhead you would originally drive to better weather.

Rather than following the trail as we've described above, instead, you'll want to keep heading west (some ski tracks may be visible).

Tips for Hiking Mount McCausland

  • Be prepared for mosquitoes in the summer.

  • A Northwest Forest Parking Pass is required at the trailhead.

  • Dogs are welcome.

  • The Mount McCausland trail is popular, so be prepared for crowds.

  • Fall is particularly beautiful there!

  • Try to hike the trail during the week when there are fewer people.

  • There is consistent shade on the way to Lake Valhalla.

  • There used to be more signs along the trail. Having our guide as a reference may help you navigate the few turns the trail throws at you!

  • Most of the trail is wide enough for two people to pass.

  • Popular with hikers seeking out a great sunrise.

  • Very little blown down as the trail is well-maintained.

  • There are campsites at Lake Valhalla but no official campsites on the mountain itself.

  • Campfires are very much prohibited year-round!

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