Pilot Ridge Trail #652

Looking toward the Monte Cristo peaks, photo by Gary Paull

To access this trail, follow the
North Fork Sauk Trail #649 for 2.0 miles, then go right (south) at the junction, crossing the North Fork Sauk River on a foot-log. The Pilot Ridge trail continues with 3 miles of switch backs gaining 3000 feet in elevation. The trail continues following the ridge up and down, when coming out of the trees and into meadows and great views of the mountains.  From the north is the Monte Cristo Peaks and Glacier Peak to the east and on a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Rainier.

Sloan Peak from Pilot Ridge, photo by Gary Paull  

At 8 miles you will come to the first good campsite, near a small alpine lake to the north side of the ridge.  At 10 miles, a side trail to the east climbs for 1 mile to the 6712 foot summit of Johnson Mountain. The main trail continues on, reaching a junction at 10.5 miles. The left fork leads to the cliff-walled, 22 acre Blue Lake at an elevation of 5500 feet, this lake can remain frozen for much of the summer. The right fork leads to the 3 acre lower Little Blue Lake after 0.5 miles. The right fork is the main trail, which ends at June Mountain at a junction with the Bald Eagle Mountain Trail #650.  The Bald Eagle Mountain Trail can be followed east for 2.5 miles to Dishpan Gap at the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) #2000.
Mount Pugh and White Chuck Mountain from Pilot Ridge, photo by Gary Paull

You can make this a loop trip by hiking north on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 6.5 miles from Dishpan Gap and passing Indian Pass, (the headwaters of the North Fork Sauk River is just west of the trail here) and continue to White Pass, then hiking west another 8.5 miles down the North Fork Sauk Trail #649. Total length of the loop hike is about 26 miles.

Type of trail: USFS
Length: 11
Elevation: 2,450, beginning at North Fork Sauk Trail - 5,946
Level of difficulty: Most difficult

Best Seasons: summer & fall

Seasonal Interest:
  • Far reaching mountain vistas including Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier, Monte Cristo Peaks, Sloan Peak and more.
  • Cliff walled 22 acre Upper Blue Lake
  • Wildflowers

General Information:

Wilderness Restrictions: Yes, enters the Glacier Peak Wilderness

Toilet: At trailhead

Bring plenty of drinking water.  The only sources for water is the Sauk River crossing and Upper Blue Lake.

Getting There:  From the Darrington Ranger District office, take Mountain Loop Highway, Forest Service Road #20, drive 17 miles south to the Sloan Creek Road, Forest Service Road #49, turn left. Follow the road for 6.6 miles to the end at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead #649.

Further Information:

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington District

The Mountaineers

Washington Trail Association