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Complete Guide to Trappers Peak Hike | North Cascades - Washington

Trappers Peak is one of the premier moderate hikes in North Cascades National Park. It takes hikers into the National Park and provides nearly unbeatable views of the Picket Range.



Where is Trappers Peak?

Trappers Peak is in North Cascades National Park and is reached via the Thornton Lakes Trail, which originates in Ross Lake Recreation Area.


If you've spent any time in the North Cascades, you'll know how difficult the approaches can be. While the hike to Trapper's Peak isn't easy, it provides a payoff that far outweighs the effort it took to get there.


View of Thornton Peak and Mount Triumph in the middle distance
View of Thornton Peak and Mount Triumph in the middle distance


Trappers Peak Trailhead

The Trapper's Peak Trailhead is off of Highway 20, up Thornton Lakes Road, about 19 minutes and 5 miles. The road is not the best-maintained in the park, but it's certainly not the worst. Be prepared for potholes and a lot of bumps.

The less than ideal trailhead toilet
The less than ideal trailhead toilet

There, you'll find about 20 parking spaces and a toilet you only want to use if you have to.


Trailhead Coordinates: 48.65492902979536, -121.32528770629733


This popular trail is mainly used to access Thornton Lakes.





Directions to Trappers Peak

Use the below map to navigate to Trapper's Peak or input the above coordinates.




Need to Know about Hiking Trappers Peak

  • Dogs are not allowed past the National Park boundary.

  • No permit is required to park at the trailhead.

  • Backcountry permits are required for camping.

  • It's possible to see deer, marmots, and more along the trail




Thornton Lakes Trail

The Thornton Lakes Trail, which you're going to take up to Trapper's Peak, is a 10.9-mile out-and-back trail that ascends just over 3,000 feet to Lower Thornton Lake.

Distance

Elevation Gain​

Time Required

Difficulty

10.9 miles

3,000

6.5 hours

6/10


Below is a map of the hike to Thornton Lakes and Trapper's Peak.

The first part of the trail is 2.3 miles long and is nearly entirely flat. It was an old logging road, so it is very evenly graded and quite wide. There are a few small stream crossings before the trail cuts to the right at about 2,700 feet and begins gently weaving uphill. The trail gains about 1,00 feet before a series of steeper switchbacks take you to your first view of the lake.



At about 4.5 miles, the trees thin, and you'll enter a meadow where huckleberries are present in peak season. You'll see a sign directing you to Thornton Lakes (to the left) and Trapper's Peak to the right. take the trail to the right and descend toward Lower Thornton Lakes for 0.6 miles and around 500 feet of elevation loss. This portion of the trail is often slippery and muddy.


This is also your high point at 5,018' if you choose not to climb up to Trapper's Peak. The Thornton Lakes Campground is right at the end of this portion of the trail. Trapper's Peak is another 0.7 miles up the main trail and is at an elevation of 5,919'.



Along the 0.7 section to Trapper's Peak summit.
Along the 0.7 section to Trapper's Peak summit. In the distance are the McMillian spires and Inspiration Peak

On the final 0.7 miles to Trapper's Peak you'll walk through steep meadows and around rocks. There is a brief section of scrambling that you can walk around if you want to. The summit is wide and mostly flat. It provides expansive views of the surroundings.


The peaks around you include Pinnacle Peak (6,775'), Mount Terror (8,032'), Inspiration Peak (7,720'), and the McMillian Spires.



Flora and Fauna Along the Way

Along the trail to Trapper's Peak, you'll encounter:

  • Douglas-fir trees

  • Pacific silver fir trees

  • Hemlock trees

  • Cedar trees

  • Alder trees

  • Maple trees

It's also possible to run into marmots, birds, deer, bears, and predatory birds, like hawks and eagles. The latter is most commonly seen in autumn.



Marmot on the way to Thornton Lakes
Marmot on the way to Trapper's Peak

The ecosystem in this area is incredibly important and quite fragile. Do what you can to stay on the trail, especially in upper meadow areas, and avoid stepping on anything you don't need to.



Trappers Peak Camping

There are three spots to camp around Trapper's Peak, and you'll need a permit for each. A backcountry permit is required for any overnight stay in the national park. It's possible to get to the Marblemount Ranger Station the day before to pick up a permit.


The sites around the lake are flat and unmaintained. This means there are no facilities or services.


Camping is not allowed on the ridge above Thronton Lakes, on Trapper's Peak, or at the upper lakes.



Our Guide to Camping at Thornton Lake has more information.


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