State Route 20 closed at Mile Post 134, Ross Dam
After a brief closure at Newhalem due to an avalanche and unstable conditions, SR 20 has re-opened to its normal winter closure point at MP 134, Ross Dam. The highway will remain closed from Ross Dam to MP 171 (Silver Star Creek) until spring re-opening. More »
Ross Dam Haul Road Closure Continues
A short segment of the Ross Dam Haul Road between the Diablo Lake suspension bridge and the tunnel remains closed to public use due to continued recovery following a March 2010 landslide. The closure will remain in effect through 2014. More »
Notice of planned work for the Cascade River Road, fall 2014
Visitors planning to access the park via the Cascade River Road after Labor Day should be advised that the Park Service is planning a fall closure of this road at Eldorado Creek (3 miles before the end of the road) in order to perform permanent repairs. More »
Rainbow Creek Trail
For there are some people who can live without wild things about them and the earth beneath their feet, and some who cannot. ... We belong to no cult. We are not Nature Lovers. We don't love nature any more than we love breathing. Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are.
NPS / Sage Boerke
Although day hikers may explore the lower reaches of this trail, with it's excellent views of Lake Chelan, you will need more time and energy to reach the broad meadows of McAlester Pass or access the side trails such as Rainbow Lake. Fishing is popular at McAlester Lake. For hikers and stock, this is a scenic route between Stehekin and State Route 20, and it is part of the popular Rainbow-McAlester loop backpack.
Backcountry Camping: A backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays. Permits are limited. There are several camps spaced along the Rainbow Creek Trail: tiny Rainbow Ford, Bench Creek, and Bowan. McAlester Pass offers more camping options for both hikers and stock. Campfires are not allowed at High Camp--please protect this meadow environment by bringing a camp stove.
Access: From Stehekin, take the shuttle bus or walk to the lower Rainbow Loop Trailhead, at mile 2.6 on the Stehekin Valley Road. To access the Rainbow Creek Trail from the north, drive State Route 20 to mile 159, Bridge Creek Trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass or federal recreation access pass is required at this USFS trailhead, and is available at any ranger station. Then follow the McAlester Lake Trail description.
For more information on current trail conditions, permits, regulations and trip planning please see the Wilderness Trip Planner.
NPS / Jeff Muse
Detailed Trail Description
The total distance hiking between SR 20 and the Stehekin Valley Road, via McAlester Pass, is 18.5 miles (30 km), and makes a nice one or two night trip.
To make a loop trip, follow the Bridge Creek (PCT), McAlester Lake, Rainbow Creek, and Rainbow Lake trails. The loop works equally well starting from SR 20 or Stehekin. Total mileage for the loop from Stehekin is 35 miles (57 km). Total mileage for this route from SR 20 is 32 miles (51 km). Typical hiking time is 4 days.
Did You Know?
North Cascades National Park is uploading its digital image library to Flickr! Be inspired, download your favorite images, or even add your own vacation photographs to the group pool: Friends of the North Cascades. More...