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Twisp Pass via Dagger Lake

North Cascades


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
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15.2 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 2420 ft.
Highest Point: 6060 ft.


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Take a walk in the forest on this trail as it climbs past a shallow lake and continues nearly to treeline at Twisp Pass. The upper half of the trail is flowered in summer and the power of avalanches is evident in the pick-up-sticks debris field shortly before Dagger Lake. At Twisp Pass in an intersection with many informal trails for further exploration.

This western approach to Twisp Pass is 2.9 miles longer than the eastern approach. It can be part of a loop trip with the Copper Creek or McAlester Creek trails, or combination trail and cross-country loops via Stiletto Lake. Once at Twisp Pass, informal trails lead to viewpoints and other climbs and scrambles.

In early summer, there are flower displays in the avalanche chutes and bordering the trail once above above Dagger Lake.

Hiked during bug season, the concept of blood loss correlates well with the peaks and a lake named after knives. In mid-summer, the area within a mile of Dagger Lake is the mosquito hunting ground. Done in this season, even with repellent you will be hiking and swatting as fast as you can, all the while losing little drops of blood to the voracious insects.

The National Park website's  description of this area is a little more subtle: "Mosquitos enjoy this area as much as humans. Bring repellent and long sleeves in bug season." Either way, be prepared. 

Starting from the Bridge Creek Trailhead at elevation 4540 feet, and hike 3.4 miles south on the Pacfic Crest Trail to the junction with the Twisp Pass Trail, found at elevation 3640 feet. The Twisp Pass Trail crosses Bridge Creek on the single log bridge and then passes Fireweed Camp, the horse camp first and then the hiker camp. The trail stays in the river bottom as it gradually climbs, reaching the McAlester Creek Trail junction at 3.8 miles from the trailhead, and about 100 yards farther is the Stiletto Spur Trail junction (elevation 3780 feet).

The trail steepens as it climbs through the forest. As it gradually turns into the East Fork McAlester Creek valley it starts crossing multiple avalanche chutes with the usual brush encroaching on the trail.

At 5.8 miles and elevation 5160 feet, it passes through a massive debris field with large logs strewn in all different directions by an avalanche that came from the slopes of Stiletto Peak (out of sight above the trail). All the cut logs are a reminder of the work required to re-open this trail.

As the trail continues its climb, it starts following the valley bottom until it reaches Dagger Lake at 6.7 miles (elevation 5510 feet). Permits are required to camp at the shallow lake, where there is one hiker campsite and one stock camp.

Beyond Dagger Lake, the trail continues with a climbing traverse around the head of the valley, reaching Twisp Pass at 7.6 miles (elevation 6060 feet). Take time to explore around the pass and enjoy the views of Lincoln Butte, Twisp Mountain, Stiletto Peak. The fall foliage is quite beautiful with purple & red bushes and golden larch.

Note: The Twisp Pass Trail can also be reached via the Stiletto Spur Trail. The route is about 0.5 mile shorter, loses less elevation and is less popular. The advantages of this route are pretty well offset by its disadvantages: less maintained, more rugged and with more creeks to cross.


Twisp Pass via Dagger Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.5050, -120.7191 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Twisp Pass Trail (#), Pacific Crest Trail (#2000)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District and North Cascades National Park

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Guidebooks & Maps

USGS Topo - McAlester Mountain (7.5')

Buy the Green Trails Stehekin No. 82 map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

From Newhalem, go east on State Route 20 for 37.4 miles (1.4 miles east of Rainy Pass) to the Bridge Creek Trailhead (on north side of road). Alternatively, from Winthrop go west on State Route 20 for 34.0 miles (3.7 miles west of Washington Pass) to the Bridge Creek Trailhead (on north side of road).


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Twisp Pass via Dagger Lake

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