Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 48.88752°N / 121.36116°W
Additional Information County: Whatcom
Activities Activities: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Elevation: 7174 ft / 2187 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Whatcom from Tapto Lakes
Whatcom Peak from camp at Tapto Lakes Basin
Whatcom and Challenger
Challenger and Whatcom Peak from camp at Tapto Lakes Basin
Red Face Mountain is essentially a high east-west trending ridge with numerous summits. The two most prominent summits are the East and West Summits. The East summit is the highest and requires exposed scrambling skills and probable use of a rope. The West Peak is a delightful ridge scramble to a fantastic viewpoint. Red Face Mountain is twenty miles from the nearest road, and will consequently require two days just to reach it. The basin to its south contains the beautiful Tapto Lakes, a collection of about five alpine lakes, all of differing character. The lakes provide a wondrous foreground to the stupendous views of Mt. Challenger and Whatcom Peak to the south across Whatcom Pass. Farther to the south, great views of the Picket Range, including such peaks as Luna Peak, Mt. Fury, and more extend far to the south. Looking west, great views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and Ruth Mountain dominate the horizon. This could possibly be the center of the most wild area in all of the Lower 48.

Getting There

Summit of West Summit
West Summit of Red Face Mountain
Near the East Summit
Lounging near the East Summit of Red Face Mountain
Mox Peaks from Red Face Mountain
Mox Peaks from the summit of Red Face Mountain
Figure Silhoutted against Challenger Glacier
Climber silhouetted against Mt. Challenger
Drive SR-542 from I-5 towards the Mt. Baker Ski Resort. Continue 13 miles past the town of Glacier to the Nooksack River Bridge. From here, turn left onto Nooksack River Road #32. Continue 4.5 miles to the road end at the Hannegan Pass trailhead, 3,200 feet.

Hike the Hannegan Pass trail 4 miles to reach Hannegan Pass at 5,066 feet. Continue down on the other side into the Chilliwack River drainage. There are several camping opportunities here, either at Copper Creek Camp (4 miles from Hannegan Pass), or further at the U.S. Cabin Camps (6.5 miles from Hannegan Pass). Along the way, you will be forced to ford the Chilliwack River on a suspended cable-car hanging above the river.

At about 8 miles from Hannegan Pass, turn right (SE) onto the Little Beaver Trail up the aptly named Brush Creek. You will once again encounter numerous camps along the way, such as Grabeal Camp and Tapto Camp before arriving at Whatcom Pass, 19 miles from the trailhead.

Continue up an unmaintained trail 1 mile up to Tapto Lakes Basin. Be careful where you camp here. You may think you're out in the middle of nowhere, but the Park Service has hired some poor schnook from college to make sure you camp only on snow or dirt up here.

The Tapto Lakes Basin is absolutely sublime. From here, either follow the SE ridge up to the East (and highest) summit, or the SW ridge up to an equally stunning summit but slightly lower. The West Summit is easiest (Class 2), while the higher East Summit is much more challenging (route-finding, Class 3 and 4, some exposure).

Difficulty: Class 2-3, Distance 42 miles roundtrip, Elevation Gain: 7,000 with ups and downs (one way)

Red Tape & Camping

Mt. Shuksan and Ruth Mtn. from Tapto Lakes Basin
Mt. Shuksan and Ruth Mountain from camp at Tapto Lakes Basin
Tapto Lakes Basin
Tapto Lakes Basin and Red Face Mountain above
Backcountry permits are required from the Park Service to camp in North Cascades National Park. The main office servicing this area is just east of the town of Glacier on Highway 542. Its number is: (360) 599-2714.

A Northwest Trail Parking Pass is also required to park at the Hannegan Pass trailhead ($5/day, $30/year). An Interagency Pass ($80/year), good at all national parks and US Forest Service trailheads, will also suffice for parking.

As previously noted, there are good camps (Copper Creek and U.S. Cabin) east of Hannegan Pass, and two other good camps (Graybeal and Tapto) on the Little Beaver Trail before Whatcom Pass. Camping is available at Tapto Lakes Basin, but be sure to camp on snow or dirt, or you will be getting a visit from the ranger.

External LInks.

Sunset from Tapto Lakes
Mt. Challenger after an afternoon thunderstorm
Post Storm over Challenger
Mt. Challenger after an afternoon thunderstorm
The Mount Baker Ski Area provides information on snowpack and has photo galleries of the area:Mount Baker Ski Area

To contact North Cascades National Park about trail closures and camping, go to the
North Cascades National Park Webpage

The closest National Park ranger station is just east of the town of Glacier on Highway 542. Its number is:
(360) 599-2714.

External Links

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