• View from Sourdough Mountain Overlook  A view looking down onto Diablo Lake. Photo Credit: NPS/Michael Silverman, 2010.

    North Cascades

    National Park Washington

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  • Diablo Lake To Be Drawn Down Three Feet in Early Oct., Trailer-Launched Boats Affected

    Diablo Lake will be drawn down 3 vertical feet for facility repairs from October 1-15. During the drawdown, boats with trailers will not be able to launch or take boats off the water. Hand-launched vessels will still be able to launch. More »

  • Cascade River Road will be open as normal through fall/winter 2014

    Cascade River Rd. will be open in 2014 until snow conditions make it impassable to vehicles, as normal. The road closure that was planned to begin September 8 has been postponed beyond 2014 due to unforeseen circumstances. More »

  • Lone Mountain Fire - National Park Service Trail Closures

    The Lone Mountain Fire in North Cascades National Park is approximately 5 mi NW of Stehekin in the Boulder Creek drainage. Boulder Creek Trail is closed. More »

Fourth of July / Panther Creek Trails

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children-that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
- Ted Perry (attributed to Chief Seattle)
Distance - one way Elevation gain / loss Use Difficulty

Fourth of July Pass via Panther Creek: 6.5 miles (10.4 km)

2300 ft (701 m) gain, 500 ft (152 m) loss

Hiking only

Moderately strenuous

Fourth of July Pass via Thunder Creek: 5.2 miles (8.3 km)

2200 ft (671 m) gain

Hiking only

Moderately strenuous
A hiker heads up the switchbacks on the Fourth of July Trail.  NPS/Rosemary Seifried

A hiker heads up the switchbacks on the Fourth of July Trail.

NPS/Rosemary Seifried

At 3600 feet (1097 m), Fourth of July Pass is one of the earliest passes to melt out. For this reason, it is popular in early season, but day hikers and backpackers looking for a short trip enjoy this hike all season long. The west side follows popular Thunder Creek Trail and then heads steeply up the west slopes of the pass with occasional views out across the valley and the massifs of Snowfield and Colonial Peaks. The best views are from the camp. The pass itself is a broad, forested pass, but there are some views from above the tiny lakes known as Panther Potholes.

The Panther Creek side of the trail is not a trail for mountain views, but rather a wild and beautiful forest with many opportunities to admire the frothing blue waters of the creek rushing and tumbling toward Ruby Creek below. The brush is legendary along this section of trail, especially between the pass and Panther Camp, as it passes through several avalanche chutes. Stinging nettles are common, mixed among the gorgeous array of wildflowers, so long pants are recommended. The Panther Creek Trail often surprises hikers by its steep ascent and descent in the first few miles as it leaves SR 20 and climbs steeply to cross a high knob before dropping into the Panther Creek Valley. The steep gorge below does not allow for a trail to contour through this area, thus the longer and steeper route over the knob.

Special Concerns:

  • Pets are allowed on a leash--please ensure the protection of wildlife and a good experience for all visitors by respecting the leash law.
  • The Panther Creek crossing is only partially bridged, and fording is not possible. An improved log crossing is possible, but is not recommended at high water levels, such as during spring meltoff. Check conditions before starting your hike.

Backcountry Camping: A backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays. Permits are limited. There are two camps along this trail: cliff-side Fourth of July Camp on the west side of the pass offers nice views toward Neve Glacier, and forested Panther Camp offers creekside camping in the middle of the Panther Creek valley. Campfires are not allowed at Fourth of July Camp. Please help protect this area by bringing a campstove. Two camps on the Thunder Creek Trail, Thunder and Neve camps, allow for a base to explore the pass without carrying heavy packs up the switchbacks.

Access via Thunder Creek Trailhead: Drive SR 20 to mile 130, Colonial Creek Campground. Park in the large lot near the boat ramp on the south side of the campground, and walk back through the campground toward the amphitheater, where the main Thunder Creek Trail begins.

Access via Panther Creek Trailhead: Drive SR 20 to mile 139, the East Bank Trailhead. Park here and walk east on SR 20 across the highway bridge over Panther Creek. It is a few minutes walk to the start of the Panther Creek Trail, and you can't see the trail until you are right upon it. Look for the sign. There is a wide shoulder on SR 20, but traffic moves quickly, so please be careful crossing the highway and walk single-file along the shoulder.

For more information on current trail conditions, permits, regulations and trip planning please see the Wilderness Trip Planner.


Panther Creek crossing bridge
Backpackers on the Panther Creek Bridge, which spans only half of the creek after the creek changed course
NPS / Rosemary Seifried
Wilderness logo of wolf howling at moon.
Ninety-three percent of North Cascades National Park Service Complex is designated as the Stephen Mather Wilderness, set aside by law for "the American people of present and future generations" for our protection and enjoyment. Please follow all Leave No Trace hiking and camping practices to reduce your impact on this special place and leave it unimpaired for future generations.

Did You Know?

Junior Ranger Totem: Raven

Anyone can become a North Cascades Junior Ranger! Pick up one of the four FREE activity booklets at any of the visitor or information centers. Complete the activities and earn your official junior ranger badge! Download the booklet here. More...