Monday, August 27, 2012

Backpacking the Copper Ridge/Chilliwack River Loop

Copper  Ridge

Copper Lake

Copper Lake

The view from Copper Lake

Copper Ridge

This weekend Ryan and I spent three days backpacking the Copper Ridge/Chilliwack River Loop in the North Cascades (~34 miles, the first four miles of which are in the national forest and the rest is in North Cascades National Park). We were lucky to have some time right now to do this trip because the North Cascades get so much snow that Copper Ridge is really only snow-free AND warm for about 3-4 weeks every year. There are still a few snow patches up there now, but nothing serious. We were lucky to have great weather too.

When we started out on Friday morning it was cloudy and chilly. It was nice to hike in cool weather. We blew through the first five miles up to and over Hannegan Pass and to Boundary camp where the national park starts. Then we climbed up Copper Ridge, ate our lunch and kept going because it was a little too chilly and windy to sit still for long. We passed a few groups of hikers who had been out for four or five days and were headed home. It was surprising how many people were out backpacking in the middle of the week.

The elevation gain on this hike seemed pretty daunting when we started, but the trail is so well designed and maintained that it all ended up being very manageable. Even while hiking along Copper Ridge there was a lot of up and down, but we still made it to our campsite at Copper Lake at 3pm (11 miles from the trailhead). The sun came out just before we got there and it was incredibly beautiful - one of those alpine lakes with perfectly clear turquoise water (and quite a bit of ice still). If it hadn't still been a little chilly I would have gone swimming. We lost the sun pretty early behind the ridge, but the evening light on the mountains across the valley was lovely.

Many of the people we talked to along the trail commented on our small packs. After hiking with John and Katelyn in Kodiak with really light packs, we decided light weight was the way to go (especially because we knew the forecast was good). We decided not to bring our whole tent, we just took the rain fly and two poles (we threw in some headnets just in case it was buggy, but didn't end up needing them). We did carry a small bear cannister though which added a couple of pounds, but I still think that beats trying to hang food on trees that have no branches. We didn't weigh our packs but I'm pretty confident they were around 20 lbs each when we started, maybe even a little less. I'm sure having light packs was one of the reasons all the elevation on this hike seemed so manageable.


  1. I think you should do a post on what all you pack on a regular backpacking trip and what you pack on a light-weight one. I've yet to do anything but day hikes. It's intimidating thinking about supplies, food, and shelter, but your trips are inspiring and I'm going to do one next year for sure!

  2. That's a good idea Sam! I'll make a list and do a post.

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  4. what time of the year did you guys go on?