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Purple Pass

Central Cascades


Central Cascades -- Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan
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15.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 5700 ft.
Highest Point: 6884 ft.


4.00 out of 5


A long, steady climb takes you from the Stehekin Landing to a high pass more than a mile above the surface of Lake Chelan. Those willing to complete the eight miles and 5,700 feet of climbing needed to reach the pass are rewarded with incredible views of the lake gorge, the Stehekin Valley and peaks stretching from the Cascade Pass area to the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The trail starts just behind the Golden West Visitor Center on the south end of the Stehekin Landing. It follows the Purple Creek-Imus nature trail for a short distance before branching off to the right and beginning its steady climb uphill. At this point, buckle in - you have a long hike ahead of you. Plenty of water is a must-have, because the last source of water on the trail is the crossing of Purple Creek, which comes too early to be of much use.

Much of the early trail is still scarred by wildfire, and it's not uncommon for dead, charred trees to fall and block the trail. Trail work in 2011 cleared many of these, so the route is clear until you reach 4,000 feet in elevation. Above 5,500 feet, the trail was mostly spared from the wildfires, so it's only between these two points that blowdowns are a likely obstacle (although this could easily change at any time, particularly over the winter).

The trail climbs up the slope above Stehekin for a mile or two before crossing back into the Purple Creek drainage. The trail traverses to the south-facing back side of the ridge on the downlake side of the drainage. This section of the trail is hot, dusty, dry and brushy. Footing at times can be loose and presents a potential danger while hiking.

After what seems like an interminable series of switchbacks, you once again cross the ridge line and attain the Purple Creek drainage at 5,500 feet in elevation. The trail starts to yield its rewards at this point - wildflowers, old-growth subalpine firs, and views of glaciated peaks to the north and west. A final traverse of a granite face brings you to the pass at 6,884 feet.

From here, views open up in all directions. You'll get partial views of Glacier Peak and direct views of the peaks around Holden. You get a commanding and unique view of Lake Chelan and the impressive face of the ridge towering above the far shore. To the east is a basin full of pine and larch.

You can either start back down or follow the trail around an unmarked 7,200' butte to a junction that will take you down to a small lake in the basin or - if you want even more climbing - up to 7,400' Boulder Butte.

Either way, it will have been a rewarding day; and if you believe that the effort of a big hike is a reward in and of itself, then there are few trails more rewarding than this.


Purple Pass

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.3261, -120.6793 Open map in new window


Central Cascades -- Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Chelan Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Green Trails Stehekin No. 82

Getting There

Access to this trailhead is via the Stehekin Landing, a small community at the north end of Lake Chelan that is accessible only by boat, float plane or on foot. The trailhead is a short (5 minute) walk from the landing where the Lady of the Lake docks.


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Purple Pass

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