A popular hike in the North Cascades that’s not a crazy-far drive from Seattle is Sauk Mountain. It’s less than 4.5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet, so not too difficult. However, much of that gain is right off the bat with a couple of dozen switchbacks. If you’re hiking this in the afternoon, expect the sun on you the entire way!
Unlike many of these hikes, the trailhead parking lot takes you up out of the forest. As soon as you’re out the car, the views are amazing!
The first stretch of trail is up a super steep hill where most of the switchbacks lie. During the winter months, this is mega avalanche territory. The nice part about the climb is you can always look back at a magnificent view of the Skagit River Valley below. On a clear day, you can even see Puget Sound.
Sauk Mountain Trail
After you round the shoulder of the mountain, the scenery changes almost entirely. A dusty trail becomes rocky boulders, and the horizon is covered with an absurd number of Cascade peaks. Glacier Peak is the main mountain to the southeast.
The trail can be a bit difficult to follow at this point. Trace a path of more heavily trafficked gravel to navigate your way to the summit. The actual summit is more of a collection of jagged outcrops of rock. After you reach that last steeper section, Mount Baker suddenly comes into view. It looks almost close enough to touch!
Because of the higher elevation, there is still snow near the top of this hike. With that in mind, bring an extra layer of clothing just in case. The weather can change rapidly up there, especially as we approach the fall season.