Backpacking, Hiking, North Cascades, Top Trips

Sahale, at last!

This is going to be picture-heavy, because holy mackerel, what a place.

All smiles

I’ve wanted to hike to Sahale ever since I saw my friends’ photos from it back when I first started hiking. Unfortunately, it’s just never happened, mainly because it’s in North Cascades National Park, which means no dogs, not even nutrias, allowed.

Doubtful Lake

The crux of this hike is actually getting the permits. Anyone can dayhike to Sahale Glacier, but if you want to camp, you’ll need to secure one of the coveted permits from the ranger station.

This is by far the most popular hike in the park, so people line up in front of the ranger station in the morning like Apple fanboys waiting for the latest iPhone.

Lupine perfume

Our trip came together at the last minute. I caught wind of Janelle and Jessie’s plans, and finagled my way into their group. Then, the day before our hike, I read on Facebook that Tony was on his way up to the North Cascades to try for a permit himself. I called him, begging, and luckily for us, he was happy to not go solo. He scored the last available permits and saved the day!

Janelle hiking up Sahale Arm

The hike itself is just…wow. Even the view from the parking lot is to die for. After hiking up 36 of the least efficient switchbacks mankind has ever seen (you will enjoy them on the way up, but curse them on the way down), it’s non-stop views all the way to camp.

Awesome campsite

Progress will be slow, as you’ll need to take out your camera every three minutes. Be prepared for bugs flying into your mouth, since the views of the massive, neighboring peaks are literally jaw-dropping. Bring a bandanna to wipe the drool off your shirt.


My favorite part of the trip was the early morning. Tony and I shared a campsite, and at 5 AM, we lazily unzipped our rain flies and watched the sunrise from our tents. Aaah.

Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier

Sunrise was followed by a breakfast of bean soup, coffee, and quiet time – just me and mountains as far as the eye could see. Happiness.

Happiness is

…and, shockingly, my breakfast of beans and coffee quickly necessitated a visit to what must surely be the finest toilet in the whole world.

There are some wonderful outdoor privies in Washington (I recommend Hidden Lake Peaks, Headlight Basin, and various crappers in the Enchantments), but this is the ultimate loo with a view.

Loo with a view

Perched on my, uhm, throne, I could see mountain goats wandering around way down along Sahale Arm, but in camp, we had to make do with these marmots.

Mukmuk looking for marmot cousins

A marmot to see us off

Eventually it was time to pack up and head back down. Sniff sniff. I will be back.

Me and the Arm

This place is worth the permit hassle for sure.

Jessie in the meadow

Halfway down Sahale Arm, we were greeted by the goat herd, adorable kid included. So cute! So fluffy! (Please don’t gore us, mama!)

Found 'em!

A gaggle of goats

Mama and kid

Then, past Cascade Pass, Tony discovered that he can talk to pikas – this guy popped out every time Tony meeped at him.


36 buggy and seemingly interminable switchbacks later, we were back at the trailhead, swigging delicious Vitamin Waters from Janelle’s cooler. That girl knows how to plan ahead.

Huge thanks to the crew for realizing this dream I’ve had for six years – and for being very entertaining hiking partners (even though Wishing and Hoping was stuck in my head for days).

Back to Cascade Pass we go

– Sahale Glacier Camp | 13 miles | 4100 feet elevation gain –

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  • Reply Kelsie August 8, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Breathtaking. It’s exciting how photography can plant the seed for future adventures. There are a handful of places I’ve backpacked to that were spurred on by a single picture. And, look at all these beautiful pictures you’ve shared! Might have to add Sahale to the list.

  • Reply Adina | Gluten Free Travelete August 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Oh my gosh that Pika! So cute!

  • Reply Manda August 9, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Simply beautiful. Sahale has been The List for years, but never manage to make it up there (the 6+ hr drive might have something to do with that).

    Love your site. :)

  • Reply Anne S. August 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    You’re so right about it being gorgeous right from the parking lot. We saw a few bears when up there, but no goats, and didn’t camp. I wasn’t aware of the permit issue – good to know. It’s a loooong drive from Portland, but I always tell people it’s probably the best dayhike I’ve ever been on, including Goat Rocks and Lake Ingalls. Maybe not as great as Jade Lake, though ;)

  • Reply Anne S. August 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    ^^^”There are a handful of places I’ve backpacked to that were spurred on by a single picture.”

    Kelsie, that’s been my whole summer! Google image search Tank Lakes if you haven’t been there yet :)

  • Reply Libby August 9, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Not too many photos at all, even though I always get so jealous when I see places like this.

  • Reply Stella August 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Love your site and awesome trip(s)! Would like to feature you guys and some of your adventures on our iPhone app for adventure seeking folks called Delight. Shoot me an email at if you’re interested. Thanks!

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    The pictures you provided are just awesome, Ingunn! I enjoy reading your posts!

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