Skagit County is home to some of the best recreation in the country, if not the world. Fresh water and salt water combine to provide a variety of environments and opportunities to get outside. Whether you are looking for fishing, wildlife, rafting, climbing mountains, or cycling, the County is flush with options. One of the best ways to see the beauty of the area is to go backpacking in Skagit County.
If you’ve never been backpacking before, let me explain the appeal. With the correct preparation, you can pack a bag of gear, head off into the woods, and be self-sufficient for a week or more. Wandering through the forests, enjoying the natural beauty of snow-capped peaks towering above, it’s easy to let go of the stress of daily life and find peace. When the only priorities are setting up a tent, finding water, and eating, suddenly there’s time to read, play games, and simply enjoy nature. And with access to Mount Baker, North Cascades National Park (sometimes referred to as the American Alps), and the lush Skagit River valley, you’re sure to get some breathtaking views.
Another great thing about backpacking is that the main cost is the gas to drive to the trail. Once you have the right gear, it’s a very inexpensive hobby. You will want the right gear, though, and it’s a good idea to invest in quality gear if you plan to go regularly. Good boots and a pack that fits well and holds what you need are the first step. Once you have those, make sure you have the 10 essentials:
- First aid
You can get much more detail on each of these on The Mountaineers website.
Once you’ve got the required gear, it’s time to choose your route. Washington Trails Association is an amazing resource for choosing hikes. This year is their 50th anniversary, and their Hike Finder Map makes it easy to search for hikes, gives coordinates for trailheads, provides information on the hike, and also gives trip reports from users who have recently been on the trails. Many hikes also have a section that tells you which topographical map you need.
Top Places for Backpacking in Skagit County
While it’s hard to find a bad place to backpack in Skagit, I’d like to share a few particular gems. First, there’s Schrieber’s Meadow. Near Concrete and off of Baker Lake Road, this trail offers spectacular views and excellent camping without too much effort. There are several options, and all of them are worth exploring.
My favorite option is the Park Butte trail. A moderate four-mile hike takes you to a comfortable camp site, where you can make camp and then hike another mile to a fire lookout with 360 views of the cascades and an amazing view of Mount Baker.
Another option is to split off to the right and follow the Railroad Grade trail. This trail takes you to the foot of the Easton Glacier, and is base camp for one of the routes to the summit.
If you prefer a longer hike, the Scott Paul trail takes you gently uphill through a forest before opening into beautiful meadows and then down into the glacial moraine and back up to reconnect with the main trail.
If you keep heading east to Marblemount, you’ll enter North Cascades National Park. While there is some phenomenal backpacking in the park, you’ll need a backcountry permit to camp, so be sure to stop at the ranger station in Marblemount. You can find more information on the process on the National Parks Service website. One highlight of the park is Monogram Lake, a pristine alpine lake with panoramic views of the jagged peaks to the southeast. Thornton Lakes is another gem, and offers a challenging day hike to Trapper’s Peak. If you keep heading east, you’ll come to the Colonial Creek campground. This is a great place to camp overnight and start a trip. Thunder Creek trail starts at the camp site and the trail continues for dozens of miles, with camps along the way to set up a tent.
It would be easy to list another half dozen great hikes in the region, but the best thing to do is just get out there. Rangers are friendly and will provide lots of information and tips for a good hike for your skill level and experience. They will also remind you if there are any restrictions such as burn bans or closed trails. Finally, it’s important to remember the “leave no trace” principle, or as some people say, “leave only footprints, take only pictures.” We are lucky to have such pristine wilderness only because of the care people have taken in packing out their waste and not disturbing the natural state. So, go out and enjoy the amazing wilderness of Skagit County with everything you need strapped to your back.