Cispus Pass Loop Trail is a 12.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Randle, WA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from March until October.
The views towards Gilbert Peak from the Cispus Pass area are amazing. Cispus Basin feels like a grand amphitheater looking up at green slopes and rocky cliffs.
My project for August and September was to hike The Goat Rocks and this hike completes the Cispus Pass/Basin section I hadn’t done yet.
I day hiked this on September 20, 2014 from Nannie Ridge Trail 98 thru Cispus Pass/Basin to the Snowgrass Trail 96 junction and return for a 22 mile RT hike that took 10.5 hours counting stops. Aside from Nannie Ridge Trail 98, this hike follows the PCT all the way to the Snowgrass Flats Trail 96 junction. It makes for a long day with no side trips or exploring. It meant breaks weren’t any longer than they had to be. Most people do this as a loop starting from the Snowgrass Flats TH or Nannie Ridge TH and adding Trails 121A and 7A, but since I hadn't researched the navigation challenges of Trails 121A and 7A and hiked Snowgrass twice before and Nannie Ridge once, I chose Nannie Ridge for my start and return.
I started from the Nannie Ridge TH at Walupt Lake. Depending on the season, parking may be available in the campground for hikers; otherwise, you may have to use the designated hiker parking just outside of the campground. Ask the camp hosts.
Nannie Ridge TH is at the end of the road inside the campground. Register at the trailhead. The trail is on the left 30ft after registering and marked but not distinctively so. Climb approx. 2000ft. in 2.4 miles to the junction of Nannie Peak Trail. Nannie Peak trail is unmarked, however, you’ll see it on the left. Continue straight about a .5 mile to a small unnamed picturesque lake. A nice place for a break. Continue 1.7 miles following the more level contour of Nannie Ridge to Sheep Lake that sits at the 5710ft level. Camping is available here and can be busy or full in-season, a great place to overnight if multi-day hiking. I had the place all to myself and was startled when a couple walked by asking about water ahead. I had a short lunch to let my feet dry out and adjust my boots. Views of Gilbert and Ivy Peaks are visible as you enter Sheep Lake. Wildflowers were all but dead, however a month ago when I was here, they were in full bloom.
After a short break, continue about a quarter mile to the junction of the PCT. Turn left and continue north on the PCT for 1.6 miles. You’ll head toward a beautiful peak that I haven't been able to identify and pass to the right (east) of it as you enter the Yakima Indian Reservation at the 6100ft level. You’ll hike in tribal lands for .9 miles to the noticeable Cispus Pass, a saddle on the ridge where you return to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Look for goats in the meadows below the pass. Binoculars help. There are beautiful views down the Klickitat River Valley and the headwaters of the Klickitat River. Cispus Pass is 6473ft in elevation. Expect wind.
Continue .6 miles along the contour of Cispus Basin to the Cispus River and camping. Camp here or continue a bit to around next water source and climb 400ft where you can camp on a shelf overlooking everything. It’s not noticeable and the trail not very discernible. There may be a different way up that I'm not familiar with, but tents were up there as I passed. The wind is strong in the basin. Make sure your camp is secure. The views of The Goat Rocks are amazing. They loom over you and are ever present. The Cispus River is a great water source. If continuing on the PCT, stock up here as there are no good water sources ahead until past Old Snowy or Lily Basin Trail if heading that way.
As you continue heading west out of the Basin, a wonderful waterfall with a small shallow pool welcomes you. A great fill-up spot. Continue 1.6 miles to the junction of Bypass Trail 97. Before the junction, a beautiful slate wall is built from the rock slide and protecting the trail from the slide. At the junction, continue straight 1 mile on the PCT to the Snowgrass Flats Trail 96 junction. From this point on, you’re heading north and above Snowgrass Flats. More and more cairns come into view as well as Old Snowy and Goat Lake to name a few. This section is beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking and my favorite. I had lunch at the junction taking in the view and once again drying out my feet for the 11 mile return back to the Nannie Ridge TH. If I had a shuttle car waiting, I would have headed to Snowgrass Flats TH but since I didn’t, I needed to return to the car. Time was precious.
This was a long beautiful hike where time was important and hiking was quick and to the point. No meandering or hanging around and enjoying the moment. I wished I could have overnighted in Snowgrass Flats, relaxed a bit and completed the actual loop. Next time I will. All things considered, this was a great hike and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!