June 28, 2011
Kerry Olson, 360-854-7302
Hiking season has begun in North Cascades National Park Complex as the temperatures warms and the snow level rises. Hikers on trails over 5000 feet should be prepared for snow and mountaineering conditions, but lower elevation backpacking trails and day hikes offer stunning views and wildlife viewing opportunities.
A favorite is the 1.3 mile day hike to Coon Lake, which offers rewarding mountain views, spring wildflowers and abundant birding opportunities near the shoreline of a mountain lake. The lake is also a frequent rest stop for visitors headed up McGregor Mountain or further up the Stehekin Valley to camps such as Bridge Creek. Bridge Creek is an easy 5-mile hike via the Old Wagon (Pacific Crest) Trail that also makes a great hub for both families and the adventurous because of its access to several other trailheads. The Agnes Gorge Trail is a relatively easy 5-mile (round trip) day hike featuring several different plant communities and a waterfall reward at the end. Each of these trailheads can be reached via the Stehekin Shuttle at the High Bridge stop. Find current trail descriptions and conditions at http://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/ and photos of North Cascades National Park Complex at http://www.flickr.com/photos/northcascadesnationalpark.
The Rainbow Loop Trail, Rainbow Creek Trail and Boulder Creek Trail have reopened in North Cascades National Park. These trails were affected by the Rainbow Bridge Fire, which burned approximately 3700 acres in August of 2010. Hikers on the Rainbow Loop, Rainbow Creek and Boulder Creek Trails should expect to see burned areas with pockets of unburned vegetation. In the areas affected by fire, wildflowers are blooming and many wildlife species are returning, making this an exciting time to explore and discover the natural cycle of change that follows a wildland fire.
Although numerous efforts have been taken to reduce hazards, all hikers should use caution and be aware of their surroundings. The potential for debris flow, surface erosion and flash flooding exists in fire affected areas and is greatest where major drainages cross the trail. Please do not linger in these areas, especially when it is raining. Wind can blow trees down across the trail. Even trees that appear healthy may have root damage and could be blown over during strong winds. Watch for rolling rocks and falling debris in areas with a steep slope above you. Park trails are maintained for your safety, so it is important to stay on the trail. Off-trail areas remain hazardous. Camping is only allowed in designated campsites in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park Complex.