Horsehead Pass, 7,590' above Eagle Lake!
Horsehead Pass, 7,590' above Eagle Lake. Mount Bigelow is a mile along the ridge to the right.

Mount Bigelow! 8,444'

June 01/02 2002 Trip Report


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The trailhead to Eagle Lakes and Horsehead Pass is located in the Okanogan National Forest in unprotected areas just outside the Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness. From Twisp go 15 miles south toward Paterno and turn right at a little sign to Gold Creek. In 1.5 miles, at a nice house, go right on Forest Road 4340. The sign is almost hidden by a tree. Follow this road past Foggy Dew Creek 11.3 miles to Eagle Lakes/Crater Lake Trailhead at 4,700’. There is a little campground at the trailhead.

It is 3 miles to Crater Lake, or 7 miles to Horsehead Pass and the Eagle Lakes. Ira Spring and Harvey Manning call this the Golden Lakes Loop and compare this area to the Enchantments in their 100 Classic Hikes in Washington book! Wow! Comparable to the Enchantments?

For climbers the area offers three big summits. Martin Peak, 8,375’, Mount Bigelow, 8,444’, and Cooney Peak, 8,321’. Doerte and I hoped to summit Mount Bigelow on a 16 mile day trip.

About a mile up the trail we encountered a mother Black Bear and at least one cub! The cub climbed about 35 feet up the first available tree, while Mom stood up and looked back and forth between her cub and us. She was jet-black and the biggest Black bear we have ever seen. She looked to be very healthy. We practiced good manners by making ourselves look bigger and slowly backing up out of the way.

While waiting for our new friends to go on their way we talked to some motorcycle riders who were out clearing the trail of downed trees up to the snowline. This is one of the multi-use areas. Motorcycles, horses, and hikers all share the trail. However, it is a long way for the motorcycles to the trailhead, and hikers are few because of the wilderness destroying machines, so the result is generally lots of solitude. I don’t know what is going on to rid this beautiful trail of the noisy machines.

We encountered lots of running water and then snow around 6,500’. We looked for the tracks of Jonathan Pryce and party who were here last week, but they were already melted out. They had managed to summit all three peaks! That says a lot about their route finding skills, determination, and strength!

Doerte and I struggled up to Horsehead Pass at 7,590’ and a false summit of Bigelow at 8,202’ before we reached our turn around time. We were only a couple hundred feet and a half mile along the ridge to the summit, but it will still be there next week! The views of the surrounding summits and the still frozen lakes were gorgeous! We’ll have to return in a few weeks when the trails are melted out a little more or wait until fall when the Larches are turning to do the peaks. Boiling Lake would make a good base camp.

Two bears, lots of snow, 14 miles, and 3,500’ elevation gain for the day.

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