Devil's Dome Loop
Low Point: 1740'
High Point: 6980'
DirectionsDrive state route 20 to the trailhead on the north side of the highway at mile post 141.
This is an absolutely stunning loop trip. The vistas (in which there are many) in all directions are of craggy mountain peaks as far as the eye can see. Large glaciers hanging from peaks to the south and west. Drier mountains, but still spectacular dominate all the way to the eastern horizon. I won't forget the coming twilight, wandering the meadows just to the east of Devil's Dome with Jack Mountain dominating the southern view, the sun pushing its last rays of light through the crags of mountains to the west attempting to light the deep valley bottoms.
Spectacular as it is, this is a pretty tough hike. There are plenty of steep ascents and descents, some snowy areas that may be hazardous early in the season, and some rougher sections of trail with rocky grades and overgrown brush. A hike with this great of rewards should cause some pain I guess.
The trail description here follows a counter-clockwise course around this loop. The only complication may be camping along the Ross Lake section of this trail. Since that portion lies within North Cascades National Park, you must check in with the ranger station to reserve your campsites in advance. We hiked through this stretch, opting to camp outside of the park to avoid this, however this can make for a long day of hiking!
For much of the trip, the trail stays pretty high on ridges. While water isn't too big of an issue, it can be several miles between water sources, so extra consideration should be given when choosing campsites and making sure you have enough water as you hike.
Mile 0.0 - The path leaves the trailhead and shortly crosses Granite Creek on a nice bridge. It quickly meets a trail intersection, continue straight, ignoring the trail to the right.
0.5 - The trail crosses Canyon Creek on a bridge. At the northern end of the bridge, immediately turn right at the fork. The trail is a bit dilapidated until reaching the registration box, about a quarter mile after the intersection.
1.25 - Trail reaches the registration box, and begins switchbacking up the the hill. There is a lot of climbing (3300' of total climbing). During this stretch, the trail crosses several small streams. The third stream, which is the largest, nicely tumbles in a series of small waterfalls.
4.25 (?) - The trail crosses a fourth stream. The climb is pretty much over. There is a small campsite just past the creek.
5.0 - The trail enters McMillan Park, a beautiful alpine meadow. Some views to the mountains to the north and the eastern flank of Crater Mountain as the trail descends slightly.
6.5 - The trail crosses Nickol Creek, which was mostly dry for our Sept 3 crossing. There is a small campsite just past the creek. The trail then begins climbing up an open ridge, switchbacking a couple of times. The views to the south are great.
8.0 - The trail reaches Devil's Park Shelter and the meadows of Devil's park. There are a number of campsites in the vicinity. The trail continues past the Shelter to the southeast a short distance, before slowly reversing direction and heading north as it climbs the western face of Jackita Ridge. The views are great through this stretch of trail, stretching to the south and the string of peaks along Ragged Ridge.
10.0 - The trail reaches a small side trail to the right, which leads up to a high point along Jackita Ridge. Continue straight, as the trail drops down into a bowl on the north side of the high point. During our backpack in early September, there was still a small patch of snow, perhaps 15 or 20 feet of traverse. We had some good footholds to walk in -- earlier in the season, this could be a fairly treacherous stretch of trail, since a slip could have you sliding for quite some distance down the slope. Trekking poles are great for these stretches -- early in the season and you may want an ice axe.
The trail switchbacks a couple of times before leveling out and continues north, around a small ridge.
11.5 - The trail crosses a small stream (the first water since Devil's Park). Jack Mountain is visible to the west, and there is a campsite to the west of the trail just past the creek crossing.
Beyond the creek, the trail rounds another spur ridge emanating from Jackita Ridge, and begins a pretty brutal drop, quite steep in places through the forest and into the North Fork Devils Creek drainage.
13.5 - The trail crosses North Fork Devils Creek, which was an easy rock hop late in the season (probably an easy crossing any time of year since it is near the headwaters of the creek). After the creek crossing, the trail climbs back out of the valley bottom, steeply in some places. Three quarters of a mile past the creek crossing is a campsite. The trail continues to climb to a trail intersection.
14.5 - The trail reaches the intersection. Turn left. The trail maintains a much gentler grade than the past several miles. The walking is nice, easy, and there are views throughout since the trail stays right on the edge of the treeline. After about a mile-and-a-half, the trail drops slightly. Views down to a pond below and the peaks to the northeast can be seen.
16.5 - The trail reaches an intersection. It's a little ambiguous, but the intersection occurs on the saddle in a grassy area. There is a sign off to the left, which is where you want to head. If you need water, there is a spring 900 feet away along the trail heading off to the right (I didn't verify this, so I'm not sure if it's a reliable spring, but there is a sign for this at the trail intersection).
Beyond the intersection, the walking stays nice for several miles as it stays pretty much right at 6,000'. As the trail enters a cirque, 2 miles past the intersection, it begins to climb slightly. There are some meltwater pools that were there during our early September hike if you need water.
19.0 - The trail reaches a prominent ridge above the North Fork Devils Creek drainage. There is a campsite available (no water), and spectacular views all around. Beyond this point, the trail climbs, fairly rapidly in places, as it climbs to the summit of Devils Dome (6982').
20.5 - The trail reaches the summit of Devils Dome -- Actually there is a short side trail that leads to the very top. There are even places for a couple of tents at the summit.
Beyond the summit, the trail drops slightly, crosses some permanent snow (nothing too treacherous here), and continues to descend encountering a small stream.
22.0 - The trail passes an unsigned trail that leads off to the right, stay left and continue to Dry Creek Pass. A campsite is located at the pass. The trail then begins descending, and what was a pretty well graded and pleasant trail gets quite a bit rougher, with lots of brush overgrowing the trail and some steep descents. There are a couple areas where navigating through fallen trees is necessary (as of 2011). Through this stretch, the trail crosses a couple of small streams. Shortly before the trail crosses into Ross Lake NRA, the trail quality improves, and the walking becomes pretty good again.
25.25 - Trail crosses into Ross Lake NRA
27.0 - Trail intersection with the East Bank Trail. Turn left and follow this trail along the lake shore south. The walking is great!
28.5 - Trail crosses Devils Creek on a spectacular bridge which spans high above the turquoise water of Ross Lake. The walking stays fantastic, in some places staying just above the waterline, occasionally carved into the stone cliffs.
31.0 - Side trail leading down to Rainbow Point Campground
31.75 - Trail crosses May Creek, a rock hop late in the season. You may get a little more wet earlier in the season. Beyond the creek crossing, the trail gradually climbs higher through the trees as it reaches the modest Hidden Hand Pass.
35.5 - Trail reaches Hidden Hand Pass -- really just a small rise in the trail (tops out at 2550'). Beyond, the trail drops gradually.
36.5 - Side trail to the right, continue straight (left). Shortly thereafter, another side trail takes off to the left (the Jack Mountain Trail), continue straight (right) as the trail continues to slowly descend.
39.0 - A trail forks to the right, which crosses Ruby Creek over a bridge and climbs up to a trailhead along Highway 20. There is a campsite to the right of the trail, just past the trail intersection.
40.0 - Trail crosses back out of Ross Lake NRA. The trail crosses Crater Creek on a bridge. There is a campsite just past the creek crossing and after the trail climbs slightly out of the creek's gully.
42.0 - The trail reaches the trail intersection. Turn right to complete return to the trailhead.
42.5 – Trailhead and the end of the hike.