Ptarmigan Traverse is a 30.6 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Marblemount, Washington that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until October.

Length30.6 miElevation gain10,905 ftRoute typePoint to point
BackpackingHikingNature tripsBird watchingRunningForestLakeViewswild-flowersWildlifeNo dogs
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Note: As of 10/19/2020, Cacade Pass Road is closed at the entrance sign at milepost 18 due to washouts near the El Dorado and Boston Basin culverts. Crews are working to repair the road, but when it will reopen is unknown at this time. For more information, please see https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/road-conditions.htm This is the famous and amazing Ptarmigan Traverse, in the North Cascades of Washington State, which starts near Marblemount. Except for the first few hours on the approach, and on the last day’s exit, this is a serious alpine traverse, which crosses 5 glaciers, traverses cliffs, and involves at times complex route finding. It should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers with knowledge of glacier travel, crevasses rescue, steep snow/ice terrain, rock scrambling, route-finding, etc. Second, while this route, which runs N-S, can in theory be done in either direction, going from North to South is the most reasonable way to do this trip, as it would be much more fatiguing, less aesthetic, and more difficult and dangerous from South to North. This is because all the glaciers are on the north sides of ridges and peaks, so going from north to south allows one to get a full view of the glaciers to be crossed and plan a route twixt the crevasses, while one would be descending all the glaciers if going from south to north, thus unable to see many crevasses till too close to plan an efficient continuous route twixt them. Further, a north-end start begins higher and allows one to rapidly gain the alpenlands, while a south-end start would require an inordinately long approach with much more elevation gain through woods while carrying the trip's heaviest packs. In short, don't even consider a south-end start. Third, this traverse can be done in 5 moving days, and skiers have reportedly done the entire traverse in a single day. However, it is recommended to take seven days, following a format of 2 moving days, followed by 1 rest day, then again 2 moving days and 1 rest day, then the long final slog out and into the netherworld. This allows the body to recuperate and gain strength on the rest days, making the moving days much more enjoyable. It can be done anytime the road is open, which is typically between mid June and early November.

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Todd Jorgensen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 11, 2020
First to Review

Strenuous with some exposure but the scenery is worth it.

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paul lukes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 16, 2019
Hiking
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Cynthia Voth
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 7, 2017
Hiking
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