Description: This 7.2-mile (11.6-kilometer) hike, a winding loop up to the shoulder of Frisco mountain and back down, offers stunning views of lush old-growth forest, magnificent mountain ranges, gorgeous alpine meadows, and enchanting jade-green and turquoise lakes. The scenery is too impressive to capture with words, so I’ll let my photos tell the story.
Cost: $5 per car; you can purchase a pass at the trailhead – bring cash to place in the little metal box there.
Time: 4+ hours (we did it in 4 hours with a brief stop for lunch and lots of quick stops for photos).
Difficulty: The difficulty level is moderate – no scrambling but lots of uphill hiking (2,000 feet/610 meters of elevation gain), and some stretches of the trail have roots, loose rocks, and steep drop-offs along the edge. Also, because the hike hits a high point of 6,850 feet/2,088 meters, oxygen is a little thinner, so it feels like hard work to keep trekking uphill when you get near the top (even those with a high level of cardiovascular fitness are likely to breathe a bit harder than usual on the stretch of trail near the Frisco Mountain shoulder).
Required Equipment: Hiking boots, clothing appropriate to the season (keep in mind that it will be cooler on the mountain, particularly in the areas shaded by forest), sunscreen and sunglasses on clear days (the sun can be intense on the open stretches of the trail), plenty of water, and food; headlamps and a first aid kit are also recommended for any hike. In addition, many people find poles useful, especially if they do the hike when there is snow on the trail.
- This hike offers incredible mountain views without requiring high-level fitness or climbing skills.
- The trail runs in a loop and the scenery is diverse, providing endlessly changing views, ranging from forest to meadows to open mountain panoramas.
- There are plenty of critters to spot along the route, including the little pika in the photo to the right. Other hikers have seen bears, deer, goats, and marmots on the trail. When we did the hike, there were butterflies everywhere as well.
- The trail is well-maintained.
- The trail isn’t well-marked, and although it’s easy to follow most of the way, there are a couple of spots where the lack of signage is a problem. We found it particularly confusing on the Frisco mountain shoulder (the highest point of the hike), where the trail appeared to go off and peter out in several directions, though it didn’t take us long to find the real trail.
- Many other hikers have mentioned being harassed by bugs during the summer, particularly in August (we went in September and didn’t have a problem with them).
- The trail is buried under snow for much of the year. I’ve seen a number of reports mentioning snow on the trail in June, July, October, and occasionally even August. Most hikers who wrote reports on the hike didn’t find this to be a significant problem and managed to complete the trail in regular hiking boots, though a few were forced to turn back.
- Most people recommend doing the loop counterclockwise, which provides a more gradual and scenic route up and a steeper, faster descent. Doing it the other way requires making a steep ascent, which is harder work (on the other hand, one hiker noted that due to his creaky knees, he prefers the clockwise route, as the gentler descent is easier on the knee joints).
- Given that the bug problem seems to diminish by mid-September (we weren’t bothered by them at all) and this is also the month when snow is least likely to be reported on the trail, September is probably the best month to go.
- For more information about this hike, including reports by other hikers, see the Washington Trails Association’s Heather – Maple Pass Loop page.
See the Maple Pass Loop Gallery for more photos taken during this amazing hike.
*Conditions and prices may have changed since the time of this writing.
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