River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
If you like ridge hiking, sloping green hills, and constant vistas, check out this loop. The biggest danger is tripping/falling off the trail from your head constantly swiveling around to take it all in.
Need to Know
Northwest Forest Pass required at the trailhead.
Starting at the North Fork Sauk River trailhead, this route meanders along the river for a gentle 5-mile warm up before shooting up the ridge, gaining ~3000 feet in 3 miles to join the PCT near White Pass. Once on the PCT, head south, being sure to not trip over your bottom lip due to the jaw dropping views along the way. There are some highly hike-able miles along the ridge as the trail rolls toward Dishpan Gap.
Once at Dishpan Gap, take a right onto the Bald Eagle Trail for about 0.8 miles until you hit the Blue Lake High Route trail. Climb up to the ridge and drink in the view of Blue Lake before dropping 700 feet to the lakeshore and outlet. This is the last place to get water until you reconnect with the North Fork Sauk, a scant 10 miles away, so stock up.
Climb out of the lake basin up and over the ridge below Johnson Mountain and ramble along the hillside with the Monte Cristo Range in your face across the valley. Prepare for a quad warm-up as there are a few steep roller-coaster descents along Pilot Ridge.
At around mile 24, prepare to have the check handed to you; you didn't think all those views and beautiful trail were free did you? Drop 2,400 feet in 2.25 miles in a series of quad-busting switchbacks and rocky, rooty tread as the trail comes to collect. Once you finally hear the roar of the Sauk and reach the river, cross on the far left log and rejoin the North Fork Sauk Trail #649
shortly after. From here, it's a nice easy 1.5 miles back to the trailhead.
Flora & Fauna
Lots of northwest wildflowers: lupine, glacier lilies, columbines, etc.
Shared By: Jason Santos