Red Pass

PTC Trail No. 2000 ~ Commonwealth Basin Trail No. 1033


DECEMBER 6, 2008  Despite the dramatic clouds rolling into Seattle around 7:00 a.m., it turned out to be a beautiful day for a hike in the mountains.  Last week I got a taste of the PCT  heading north of out Snoqualmie Pass, and I wanted to see more before winter arrives.  It was 33 and clear when I left the PCT trailhead around 9:00 a.m., and I thought I would have the Commonwealth Basin trail to myself for the day.  The ice that coated the boulder field on the PCT last week had melted, but ice is forming on the rocks in and around the waterfalls that cascade over the trail and required extra care to cross.  At 2.5 miles is the junction with the Commonwealth Basin Trail junction.  The trail drops to basin floor, crosses a stream and meadows, then charges steeply up the hillside via a multitude of short, tight switchbacks.  Teasing views peak through the trees, but you don't quite see them until suddenly there is a clearing and Mount Rainier appears on the horizon.    The grade of the trail never eases until it reaches a meadow near Red Pond.  The pond was frozen, and the trail was covered in snow.  It was slick from this meadow almost all the way to Red Pass, about 1/2 mile away and 500' above.  The views north of the pass, where Mount Thompson dominates the scenery, are nothing short of amazing.    To the south Mount Rainier towers over a sea of mountains and the still barren Snoqualmie Pass ski slopes. 

I found a rocky outcropping in the sunshine at the pass and ate lunch with stunning views of mountains wherever I looked.   The sky was brilliant blue, and the sun was warm.  I headed back down the trail shortly after noon and encountered several groups of hikers who were heading to the pass.    Just before the PCT disappeared back into the woods about 2 miles from the trailhead, I turned around for a last look, and dark clouds were starting to gather over Red Mountain and the pass. 

9 miles roundtrip

3050' gain (2800' in, 250' out)