Skullcap Peak is confusingly popular even though its mild slope and low prominence conspire against it. Tucked between two higher neighbors, it is very much dwarfed by Portal and Black Mountain. Perhaps more alluring is the difficulty required to get to this peak than the mountain itself. The summit register placed by Tom Sparacio in 2005 is full of hundreds of names, suggesting a worthy and yet obscure objective. Being part of the Painted Traverse, it shares a wonderfully similar view of the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
View SE from Skullcap
From Darrington go south on the mountain loop highway about 17 miles turning left onto Sloan Creek Road and following it to its end at the North Fork Sauk trail head. From here there are two options depending on which route you want to take. Perhaps the easiest is to take the North Fork Sauk trail 8.5 miles to Red Pass junction, then continue to Red Pass, up and over Portal Peak and Purple (Point 6910). Alternatively, if doing the Painted Traverse, follow the North Fork Sauk 1/3 mile until it's junction with Red (Painted) Mountain trail which takes you part way up Painted. Climb Painted then traverse East over many unfriendly class 3/4 scrambles interspersed with snowfields bumping over Magenta, Black then bearing south to Brown and down to the base of Skullcap.
It's an easy walk North or South from the base of Purple or Brown (respectively). In this particular case the approach, i.e. those two peaks, are much more difficult than the "climb" itself with some minor class 3/4 when snow is not present on route.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead.
When to Climb
Potentially this peak can be climbed any time of year. If touring in snowy conditions, please check with NOAA, NWAC and have a locator beacon/spot and avy gear. The Sloan Creek Road (NF-49) may also be closed in winter.
Skullcap Summit Register
Camp only in designated camping locations. Use established fire rings and put them out properly. Practice "leave no trace" as this is a wilderness area.
Skullcap at dusk
External LinksNOAA forecast
Office Hours and infromation for MBSNF
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie road and trail conditions
NWHikers trip reports of the Painted Traverse in Dry and Snow conditions:
Painted Traverse report by Stefan
Painted Traverse report by Wolfie