Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades

Nine mile hike on the Heather / Maple Pass Loop in October 2015

Autumn in the North Cascades is one of the most beautiful times of year.  The rugged rocky ridgelines will be a tapestry of the bright oranges and yellows of Tamaracks and Larches along with the deep red of low lying huckleberry and other bushes.  The air is crisp but still warm enough to feel inviting.  The sunlight is deeper and richer at sunrise and sunset.  The weather can be moody.  Bright brilliant blue skies or dense clouds and fog with a chance of rain.  Even a blanket of snow can cover the landscape from an early season snow storm.
 
Maple Pass is one of those must see places in the Autumn.  A beautiful loop trail that leaves a parking lot at Rainy Pass and starts in dense dark green forest on a well maintained trail.  Then starts to offer views fairly quickly along avalanche chutes that open up between the trees.  At approx 1 mile a trail leaves to the right that goes to Lake Anne.  A worthwhile detour that only adds 1 mile to the total mileage.  I only say it cloaked in thick fog but I can imagine on a clear day the surrounding ridgelines are stunning from below.
 
The trail climbs a total of 2000 feet.  The first Pass is Heather Pass.  Here there are side meanders that added a mile or so to my loop.  Views from the meanders make them worth exploring.  Then the trail continues to climb to Maple Pass where someone had made a trail cairn and where my dogs discovered a very angry chipmunk.  Instead of free food he was being vigorously investigated by my two dogs as he hid deep in a rock pile and chattered noisily at them.  from the pass were views of a sea of clouds ebbing and flowing through the North Cascade peaks.
 
By this time the sun was back out and it was late in the afternoon.  The gold light added a glow to the rock and ridgelines all around us.  I wanted to just spend the evening taking photos until dark but I didn't like the idea of hiking an unknown trail in the dark so we continued following the ridgeline until it started to switchback down into the valley where we started.  Eventually after some small meadows the trail sank back into the deep forest and the fog returned like a closing curtain over our hike the last mile to the car.
 
As noted in the WTA trail description it is best to do this trail counter clockwise unless you want to get all the steep climbing done at the beginning of the hike.
 
We continued as
Koshka looking out over the North Cascades National Park
A Sea of Clouds over the North Cascades National Park
Looking North above the Clouds.
Fall Needles on the Tamaracks
Trail Cairn Along the Trail
Trail Heading Vack Down the Ridgeline
Taz and Koshka Walking a Fine Line
Looking Down into the Next Valley
Koshka Exploring the Landscape
The Hidden Lake Anne Revealed
Autumn Colored Dog Blends In
Rolling Clouds and High Elevation Tamaracks
A Cloak of Fog
View at Lake Anne.  Just Taz and the logs at the edge of the lake
Autumn Color
Lake Anne out of the Fog
Heading up to Maple Pass
The Climb Up to Heather Pass
The Belgian Waffle surrounded by Fall Color
In and Out of Cloud
Heather Pass Side Trail
Looking back at Maple Pass
Trail Along the Ridgeline in the fog
The Sun Poking Through the Fog
Tamarck Needles
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