Glacier Peak Wilderness

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Glacier Peak Wilderness
IUCN category Ib (wilderness area)
Map showing the location of Glacier Peak Wilderness
Map showing the location of Glacier Peak Wilderness
Location Chelan / Snohomish / Skagit counties, Washington, USA
Nearest city Seattle, WA
Coordinates 48°06′45″N 121°06′50″W / 48.11250°N 121.11389°W / 48.11250; -121.11389Coordinates: 48°06′45″N 121°06′50″W / 48.11250°N 121.11389°W / 48.11250; -121.11389
Area 572,000 acres (2315 km2)
Established 1964
Governing body United States Forest Service

The Glacier Peak Wilderness, created by the US Forest Service in 1960 by efforts of the North Cascades Conservation Council, four years before the 1964 wilderness legislation of the Congress, is located within portions of Chelan County, Snohomish County, and Skagit Counties in the North Cascades of Washington. The area, 572,000 acres (2,310 km2) in size, 35 miles (56 km) long and 20 miles (32 km) wide, lying within parts of Wenatchee National Forest and Mount Baker National Forest, is characterized by heavily forested stream courses, steep sided valleys, and dramatic glacier-crowned peaks.[1]


Lyman Lake and Larix lyallii

Forest vegetation comprises several species of fir, Douglas-fir, hemlock, redcedar as well as stands of mixed pine and Douglas-fir on its eastern slopes. Various species of wildlife inhabit the area and include deer, elk, black bear, mountain goat, cougar, marten, and lynx. Smaller animals, such as field mice are common.[1] The last confirmed Grizzly Bear sighting in the United States portion of the North Cascade ecosystem occurred in this wilderness. The high mountain lakes often give good catches of fish during their ice-free months. The primary fishery is cutthroat trout, however, other species do exist.[1]


Glacier Peak, 10,541 feet (3,213 m)

No roads approach Glacier Peak, and one must hike many miles through extremely rough terrain to reach its base. Normally, hikers can reach the volcano from the west via the White Chuck River Valley, or the Suiattle River Valley; from the east, it may be approached from the western tip of Lake Chelan or the White River or Chiwawa River Valleys.[1]

Trail conditions[edit]

Most years the wilderness is still buried under 10 to 20 feet (300 to 600 cm) of snow in May. Usually most trails and passes are snow free by mid-August, but this varies from year to year. Snow and cold rain can occur in mid-summer.[1]

Triad Lake, 6,560 feet (2,000 m), near High Pass

Flood damage[edit]

On October 20, 2003, there was a record-setting flood event when over 10 inches (250 mm) of rain fell on the wilderness. The warm rain melted snow and ice driving massive amounts of water, trees and debris into the rivers. Downstream, roads, bridges, campgrounds and trails were damaged and destroyed. The destruction was particularly devastating to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Eight trail bridges and one stream ford on a 30-mile (48 km) section of the trail below Glacier Peak were destroyed. Little or no evidence remains that some of these bridges ever existed. The two most notable losses were bridges over the Upper White Chuck River and the Suiattle River. Both crossings are dangerous fords under the best of conditions. Additionally, five major trails that provided access to the PCT in the area sustained varying degrees of damage from fairly light (North Fork Skykomish Trail) to severe (White Chuck Trail). Kennedy Hot Springs was buried in a mudslide and completely destroyed.[2]

Construction on the Suiattle River road begun in 2013 and is scheduled to be completed by October 2014. (check the USFS website for info)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "Glacier Peak Wilderness Area" (retrieved on 2005-12-07).
  2. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "Flood Damaged Trails" (retrieved on 2005-12-05).