Top of the Cascades!

“Top of the Cascades” is how Rich Cronin described this trip when we did our pre-trip recon, and it sure sounded like an appropriate event name. I believe this is the highest road in Washington, however, I could be wrong!

Meet at the Alta Lake State Park, outside the small town of Pateros, on Friday evening, September 29. This is a fee campground, and reservations are advised. I chose this as our meet-up place, because it’s easy to find, even if some NWOL people might be driving a long distance and arriving after dark.

The park suffered significant damage in the 2014 wildfires, as did the town of Pateros, but it’s still a beautiful lake, in a nice setting with very good campsites.

Pateros has fuel, a small store, a nice restaurant, and a very good small bakery! It’s right on the Columbia River.

Saturday morning, a leisurely start at 9:00 will be just fine, giving folks who might have arrived late at night, a chance to sleep.

We’ll work our way up the Methow Valley, initially following the highway, then we’ll turn off westward, just before reaching Carlton. We’ll head up, up, and up some more to spring-fed Black Pine Lake, a very nice place for a break and perhaps a meal. There is good fishing at Black Pine lake, but difficult without some kind of a float tube, or other small boat.

From Black Pine, we’ll work our way towards Mazama, then leave the Methow Valley and again start climbing. And climbing. And… You get the picture… We’ll drive to Harts Pass, then on to Slate Peak, site of a cold-war radar station, and I believe the highest point a road reaches, in Washington.

The road to Harts pass is usually maintained in excellent condition! It’s dirt & rock, but well graded.

Steep drop-offs and no guard rails.

Trailers are NOT ALLOWED on this road. I know, our little “overlanding” trailers wouldn’t be a probem, but they’re still not permitted.

At Slate Peak we can park and look out over much of the North Cascades… Views are incredible. To get to the top of the peak, a short, steep hike is required.

From there, we’ll descend, and descend and… well… into the mining area, established in 1894! We’ll drive to the end of the road, and MAY elect to camp there for the night. Normally there are gold miners working their placer claims in the area. This road is not as well maintained, but is still quite easy to drive.

If this campsite doesn’t work out, there is another not far from Harts Pass. That one requires an $8 fee, and is very attractive, despite being hit hard by fires in recent years.

Sunday morning, October 1st, we’ll break camp and head out. We’ve got some options. Washington Pass is nearby, and a magnificent place to see. There are also some other interesting side roads, hikes and mountain bike rides in the area.

We’re limiting this to eight vehicles, because it space can be tight at Slate Peak and also at the end of the road along Slate Creek in the mining area.

I ran the entire route in 2wd, with no problems. A standard sedan, driven carefully, on good tires could make this trip. Perfect for anyone wanting to get their Subaru Crosstrek or Forester dirty!

I expect the fall colors to be starting, particularly at higher elevations.

Note – this area is well known for both mule deer and black bear.

CB ch 22, and if you have questions, feel free to call me at (509)885-5905. Guy

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Registered Attendees

  • Guy Miner
  • Rich Cronin
  • Mark Mischke
  • Burt Strathy
  • Keith Martin
  • Ed Amdahl
  • Jason VanderSluis