Breathtaking ChallengeA park ranger described the trail up Sourdough Mountain as the most strenuous hike in the North Cascades. I would add that it is one of the most breathtaking. We began our hike at 10 AM on September 21. The weather was ideal - slightly overcast, the temp in the 60's, few bugs.
A word of warning. It was a long drive to the trail head. We took State Route 20 to Marblemount. We continued 20 more miles, then turned left onto Diablo Rd. just before the bridge, then a short distance more to the tennis courts, the trail head is right behind them. It took us an hour and a half from Burlington. Though most of it was a very enjoyable curvy drive through the Cascades.
The ClimbThis very well defined trail was really difficult for the first two miles. My wife and I are in our late fifties and in good shape. We're runners who average about 25 miles a week. But 3000 feet of elevation in 2 miles is tough for anybody! We took our time and stopped frequently. It seemed like it would never end. However, it leveled out after three miles near the boundary of the National Park. It also became much more scenic.
The PayoffWords can't describe how breath taking it became as we switch backed up a steep flower covered alpine meadow. Even though the trail is very safe, it seemed at times as if we could swan dive a mile down into Lake Diablo. No photograph has captured it - craggy snow capped peaks, ringing a steep slope, bursting with wild flowers that swiftly descends into a surreal blue green Lake Diablo. Apparently because it is physically demanding, there was nobody on the trail.
The SummitWe reached the summit in 4 and a half hours. The 360 degree panorama is spectacular. The wilds of British Columbia to the north, massive Colonial Mountain to the south, towering Jack Mountain to the east, and the forbidding Pickets Range to the west. A mile down are several azure lakes.
We weren't crazy about the restored fire lookout. It seemed to detracted from the Alpine tundra wildness. Its value is historic rather than functional.
The ReturnThe trip down seemed even more scenic than the way up. We couldn't help it, we stopped to yodel several times along the way. Yes, it is that grand and spacious. There was little snow, and the streams were low. We didn't need crampons or ice axes, but we were glad to have brought our trekking poles. We hated going back into the woods. However it was getting late so we scurried down through the lush cedar forest. It only took 3 knee banging hours to get down.
If you are in good shape, and have the opportunity, don't pass this one up.
Rusty and Tess Koscianski