Covering 576,865 acres—35 miles long by 20 miles wide—massive Glacier Peak Wilderness is one of Washington’s largest stretches of wilderness landscape. Its dominant geologic feature, Glacier Peak, is the fourth-highest mountain in the state, reaching 10,541 feet. A dormant volcano, Glacier Peak last erupted some 12,000 years ago; today its summit is almost encircled by glaciers.
In the Glacier Peak Wilderness, you’re likely to see deer, blue grouse, and marmots, plus an occasional lynx, mountain goat, and cougar. Deep snow buries much of the wilderness high country till late June, and some trails are not free of snow until mid-July.
More than 450 miles of backcountry trails provide diverse hiking opportunities in the wilderness, with access from all sides, including the Marblemount , plus the Lake Chelan , Stehekin , and Entiat River areas . The western side of the wilderness reaches almost to the Mountain Loop Highway , with access via several Forest Service spur roads. The ultimate hiking experience, the Pacific Crest Trail, cuts right through the heart of Glacier Peak Wilderness, following the ridges for 60 miles of ascending and descending paths.
Once the most popular path in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, White Chuck Trail (No. 643) was badly damaged when the river rerouted itself during a 2003 storm that ravaged many parts of the North Cascades. The storm completely consumed the popular Kennedy Hot Springs along the trail, and Forest Service rangers and volunteers are just now clearing the trail again for use. Call Verlot Public Service center (360/691-7791) for the most up-to-date info on this trail, which acts as a major junction with the Pacific Crest Trail and other side trails in the Wilderness.
Mountaineers heading up the glaciers of Glacier Peak often use White Chuck Trail to reach the base of the mountain, scrambling to the timberline and following the Sitkum Glacier to the summit. Consult a North Cascades climbing guidebook for a detailed description of the route and be sure to call Verlot for avalanche information in the spring.
The Pacific Crest Trail is accessible from the west side at various points off the Mountain Loop Highway . One of the best of these is the North Fork Sauk Trail (No. 649), an 8.4-mile path offering a gentle riverside route through a magnificent old-growth cedar forest, before relentlessly switchbacking upward to the Pacific Crest Trail, gaining 3,900 feet en route.
An excellent loop hike (26 miles round-trip) is to continue south on the PCT to its junction with the Pilot Ridge Trail (No. 652), and then follow that trail back downhill past alpine lakes to its junction with the North Fork Sauk Trail. The Pilot Ridge Trail offers hikers vistas of Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier, but be sure to carry plenty of water, since portions of this loop hike lack water sources.
Get to the North Fork Sauk trailhead by driving east from the Verlot Public Service Center for 27 miles (or south from Darrington  for 20 miles) and turning east onto Sloan Creek Road 49 near the Bedal Campground. The trailhead is located 6.6 miles up, where the road crosses Sloan Creek.