Jackita Ridge and Devils Park comprise the high, craggy divide and parkland immediately east of massive Jack Mountain
and Crater Mountain
. The ridge and park offer, in fact, what could be considered the quintessential views of these two peaks. You won’t see Jack’s Nohokomeen Glacier but you will see Crater’s much-diminished Jerry Glacier, now reduced to a distressing boomerang shape.
The general flavor of the divide is one of parkland terrain for west and southwest basins but with very steep north-facing walls. The east side of the divide shows much evidence of past ice sheets but none now remain (at least that I saw).
Jackita Ridge’s highest point is 7,350 ft and has a respectable prominence of 1270 ft (measured through Devils Pass to the north). This point (“Jackita BM”
) has a benchmark on it dating from 1925. In addition to Jackita BM, there is a summit to the north that terminates Jackita Ridge. This is Pk 7270
(590P) and it’s a more interesting scramble than Jackita BM.
The rock of Jackita Ridge and other nearby peaks such as Daemon Peak, the highest (7,514 ft) and most prominent (2194P) summit in the general area, is the same as that of Hozomeen Mountain
: metamorphosed basalt (greenstone). This rock is generally unpleasant and lacks cracks for protection, but it is interesting to look at. It is like poorly poured concrete: large rocks imbedded in a hardened slurry.
The Jackita Ridge Trail traverses in and around the basins on the west side of the divide. In this regard, you will get different perspectives of Jack and Crater mountains and peaks to the southwest and northward (toward Castle Peak). But if you want to see to the east you would need to crest the divide. You can do this by trail to Anacortes Crossing or simply ascend to the divide wherever convenient.
If you look sharp you will see bear in the many meadows—especially in the height of huckleberry season. And if you’re really lucky like we were, you’ll see a golden eagle—a golden eagle being dive-bombed by unhappy hawks.
In late-September and October hunters frequent the area both on foot and on horseback. In fact a duo of horse-riding hunters snagged two bucks in Devils Park. We passed them on the way in.
This area makes for a popular though long loop trip up from the East Bank Trail on the shores of Ross Lake. A trail goes east up to Devils Dome thence to Devils Pass. This loop generally takes 3 days and is over 40 miles, I think. I will not be describing this loop.
The easiest route to the Devils Park area and east side of Jackita Ridge would be from the southwest from the Canyon Creek Trailhead using the Jackita Ridge Trail. This is the same starting trail as for Crater Lake and Crater Mountain and the high alpine route to Jerry Lakes. One can also get to the ridge from the southeast from FR-700 in Slate Creek.
Jackita Ridge Trail
This trail is 16 miles long from car to Devils Pass at the north end of the ridge. The distance to the shelter at 5,800 ft in Devils Park is 8 miles. So there is roughly 8 miles of trail from the park to the pass. This trail traverses the west side of Jackita Ridge. Fred Beckey, in his Cascade Alpine Guide, refers to this trail as the McMillan Park-Jackita Ridge Trail but the signage just says Jackita Ridge Trail. The trail does pass through McMillan Park, though.
To get to the trailhead drive the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) east from the Diablo Overlook (viewpoint) for approx. 9.5 miles or west from Rainy Pass for approx. 16 miles. The Canyon Creek Trailhead is a large parking lot with the recent addition of a toilet facility. Elevation is 1,900 ft.
The first order of business is to get to the Jackita Ridge Trail proper. From the parking lot you actually start on the Canyon Creek Trail. Hike the trail along the creek (Granite Creek in this case) for 200 yards or so to the large hiker bridge. Cross Granite Creek and then go back along the creek on the other side for 100 yards to the ruins of the Granite Creek Guard Station. The Canyon Creek Trail continues past the old guard station but you want to cross the second, smaller bridge (large log with cable-stayed handrails) instead. Once across the creek (Canyon Creek) turn right and follow the creek bank for a few hundred yards. This is the Jackita Ridge Trail.
The trail climbs 3,400 vertical feet in 4 miles and 55 boring switchbacks to a 5,260-ft junction with the trail to Crater Lake. This junction marks the beginning of McMillan Park. Go east through the park (more trees than meadows). In 2 miles [6 miles from the car] reach the Devils Creek-Nickol Creek pass (4,940 ft) and begin the uphill climb up to and through Devils Park. The shelter at 5,840 ft is 8 miles in or so says the sign at the trailhead. This shelter could sleep a few on bunks.
Continue up the trail as it makes a very long switchback or cut directly up the open park slope for roughly 600 vertical feet to save half-a-mile. At about 10 miles reach the highest point of trail (6,800 ft) just SSW of Jackita BM. From here it is 4 miles to the junction with the trail that leads up to Anacortes Crossing
(6,886 ft). In 6 miles reach Devils Pass (6,060 ft). Some of the trail through here is exasperatingly steep—especially the part that descends to 5,100 ft at the head of the North Fork of Devils Creek.
Hells Basin Trail
This is a different route from the southeast. A washout in the final approach road to Chancellor Campground has more or less rendered this a longer, more tedious route on a trail that has surely been abandoned. I don’t think the road washout will be repaired. As such I will merely give a cursory description of this trail. It ascends to Anacortes Crossing north of Jackita BM. The extra driving to get to this “trailhead” plus the uncertain state of the trail itself will not necessarily make it seem like a better choice.
Drive over Harts Pass then down the other side for 9 miles to the washout at ~3,600 ft about 3 miles before Chancellor. Hike the road (NW) along Slate Creek to the campground at 2,840 ft at the end of the road.
Find the trail and hike it northward on the west side of Canyon Creek for about 0.8 miles to where the valley splits. Keep left and ascend westward into Cascade Creek. Higher up this drainage becomes Hells Basin at approx. 4,400 ft. In 5 miles reach Anacortes Crossing (6,886 ft) on the Jackita Ridge divide. The trail angles down through talus then meadows a short distance to the Jackita Ridge Trail.
So although this trail is only eight miles (5 trail miles plus 3 road-walking miles) to the heart of Jackita Ridge, the drive is longer—especially if you’ll be coming from the Puget Sound area.
The trailhead requires a Trail Park Pass. Jackita Ridge, Devils Park, and McMillan Park are located within the Pasayten Wilderness.
Camping is available in many places along the trail both in McMillan Park and Devils Park and places beyond. Here is a partial list:
>> A few paces east of the Crater Mountain trail junction (a stream for water is at the junction)
>> At the Devils Creek-Nickol Creek pass (water is available up the trail a short distance to the east)
>> At Devils Park just about anywhere (a stream can be found just east of the shelter; bring a filter)
>> In any of the basins on the west side of the divide though water isn’t available in the basin west of Jackita BM
>> At Devils Pass (water is available at a spring [may be dry] or at a year-round pond east of the pass)
>> An exquisite bivy camp (room for one tent) can be found about 200 yards down the west spur of Pt. 7248 just south of Jackita BM. There is no water at camp but a year-round stream is available in the basin to the south. Take a water jug to fill up and bring up to camp
When to Climb
Access to Jackita Ridge is largely predicated on getting to the trailhead. From November to April the North Cascades Highway is typically closed due to snow. In April and May avalanche danger (sloughing snow avalanches) may present a danger. All in all, the best three times would be when the flowers are in bloom (June/July), or when the berries are ripest (August/September), or when the larches have turned yellow (anytime after mid-September). There are great larches to view in upper Devils Park southwest of Pt. 7248.
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