Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hart's Pass & Slate Peak

I took a trip up to Hart's Pass/Slate Peak near Mazama, Washington last Friday. This is the highest drivable road at almost 7,300 feet in Washington. Once you leave the paved road, it is a twelve mile journey to Hart's Pass. Twelve long and slow miles along what was once a narrow wagon trail leading up to the now abandoned gold mine.

Starting up the Road Looking Back Towards Mazama

One particular half-mile section of the road is called Dead Horse Point and with good reason! The road clings to the side of the mountain along a very narrow cliff area. Back in the day, wooden planks were stretched across this area. In the 1890's a string pack of horses was crossing and the one of the last horses panicked not wanting to cross. Since they were all tied together, the other horses lost their footing and the whole string went off the edge of the road and plummeted several hundred feet down to the bottom of Rattlesnake Creek.

For me, this was not picture-taking time. This was white knuckle time!! (Coming back down from Hart's Pass, I was on the outside edge looking almost straight down into the ravine. Talk about instant vertigo! If I would have seen this going up the mountain, I'm not sure I would have made it to the top.)

Once we cleared Dead Horse Point and I took a deep breath, the road continues climbing. As you get nearer to Hart's Pass, you drive through an area decimated by the 2003 Needles Fire.

Winding Through Dead Trees
Just before reaching Hart's Pass at 6,200 feet in elevation there is a turn off that takes you past Meadows Campground (still in the burn zone) out to a point where the road ends. From there you can see the Pacific Crest Trail. It made for a nice place to have a picnic lunch.

Pacific Crest Trail Section

After lunch, we continued on our way past Hart's Pass and up to Slate Peak where the road ends just below the lookout. The military gave Slate Peak it's flat top look. There used to be a small lookout house on top of the mountain but the Cold War of the 1950's and fear of Soviet attack was incentive enough for the government to blow off the top of the peak and build a radar station. The radar station is long gone and the replacement tower sits exactly at the same height as the original mountaintop.

Slate Peak Lookout - Elevation 7,488 Feet

The sky was pretty clear, not too hazy. It is a short but strenuous (at least for me) half-mile hike from the parking area up to the top of the mountain.  Once up there, you have a 360 degree view of the surrounding North Cascades including Mount Baker to the west, the Pasayten wilderness and Canada eighteen miles to the north. It was simply spectacular!

Mount Baker Waaaay in the Back (52 miles away!)

The Old Mine Site - aka "The Glory Hole"

Hello, Canada!

Looking Down Towards the Parking Area and Hart's Pass Beyond

All in all, it was a great trip up to this area, even with Dead Horse Point. Glad I finally made it up to Hart's Pass and Slate Peak.


  1. Thanks for taking me along to a place I haven't visited, yet. What amazing views of the Cascades. I love those kinds of roads.

  2. What an amazing looking place! Fantastic photographs and great information as well. It's funny that you mention the Pacific Crest Trail in your post. Just last week a blog post I made included some the most southern portions of the trail and now you mention the northern most part. GREAT post!

  3. I too am a born and bred westerner and used to mountain driving (and passengering), but that's definitely white knuckle time. Beautiful!!


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