Spider Gap, Buck Creek Pass – Glacier Peak Wilderness (40 mile loop)

Trip Overview: The ~40 mile Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass backpacking loop sits within a beautiful section of Glacier Peak Wilderness in the northern Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Over the course of the loop you hike from 2,750 feet of elevation up to 7,070 feet as you go over several ridges and visit multiple lakes. Highlights include glacial-fed alpine lakes, alpine meadows, spectacular views of Glacier Peak, and several small glaciers.

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Overall map of the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass backpacking Loop in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Day 1 (blue) Trinity Trailhead to Spider Glacier, Day 2 (magenta) Spider Glacier to Image Lake, Day 3 (yellow) Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass, Day 4 (red) Buck Creek Pass to Trinity Trailhead.
  • Higher res version of the overall map for Spider Gap, Buck Creek Pass Loop (PDF)
  • Topographic map of Glacier Peak Wilderness for purchase (amazon link)

Jump to Day 1: Trinity Trailhead to Spider Glacier
Jump to Day 2: Spider Glacier to Image Lake
Jump to Day 3: Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass
Jump to Day 4: Buck Creek Pass to Trinity Trailhead

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Preparations:

Click here to read more about Permits

Permits:  The only permit required to backpack here is related to day use parking fees for the Trinity Trailhead. This fee is $5 per vehicle per day or a valid Recreation Pass works as well. No advanced backcountry permits are required to enter the wilderness here. Backpackers are simply asked to sign in at the trailhead register.

Click here to read more about Logistics

Logistics: Backpackers can start/end this loop from either the Trinity Trailhead or the Phelps Creek Trailhead. These trailheads are separated by ~2.5 miles and are connected by a dirt road. To complete the full loop you must walk these ~2.5 miles along the road either at the start or end of your trek (if you have two vehicles, you could also park one at each trailhead). I prefer the Trinity Trailhead because you can hike along the road towards the Phelps Creek Trailhead to start your trek and then do not need to worry about hiking the road at the end of your trip. The Trinity Trailhead also has restrooms and is near the Phelps Creek Campground if you want to camp near the trailhead before your trek. This campground has 7 tent sites and costs $16 per night.

Click here to read more about Difficulty

Trail Conditions and Difficulty: This itinerary in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is moderate to difficult when hiked in 4 or fewer days. There is a upwards of 10,000 feet of elevation gain over the entire loop, so be prepared for climbing. The peak elevation is just over 7,000 feet, so thin air may be an issue for some. The trails are generally well marked with the exception of Spider Gap. When approaching Spider Gap, you must hike along an unmaintained route and many hikers traverse across the Spider Glacier. In addition the trail can be snowy as you descend from Spider Gap down to the Lyman Lake Basin. Backpackers should be prepared to hike off trail and be prepared to traverse along the surface of the glacier in this section. Some backpackers find microspikes/crampons and an ice ax useful for this section, but others report traversing this section fine without these items.

 

Supplies: There is not much concern for bears in the Glacier Peak Wilderness so there is not a requirement for bear canisters. That said, rodents and small animals in the area are known to forage through hiker supplies. At the very least, you should hang your food in an ursack to prevent animal issues.

You likely will want bug spray because the mosquitoes can be out in force in certain areas where the snow has recently melted. I prefer a picaridin based spray because it does not damage plastics and synthetic fibers like high concentration DEET sprays do. I also like to pre-treat my clothes and tent with permethrin spray repellent. The permethrin treatment stays on your clothes for up to 7 washes, so it helps reduce the amount of spray you need to put on your skin. In addition, many hikers find trekking poles very helpful in the Cascades since they help your knees on the steep climbs and descents.

 Below is a list of the gear recommended for this backpacking trek:

Hiking clothes

Clothes for camp

Hiking gear

Camp gear

Random

Food and drink

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……….

Day 1: 9.9 miles; +3,700 feet / -270 feet; Trinity Trailhead to Spider Glacier

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Day 1 (blue) map of the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Loop backpacking trip in the Granite Peak Wilderness. Going from the Trinity Trailhead to the Spider Glacier.

Map of the Day 1 hike in the Granite Peak Wilderness (PDF)

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Approximate elevation profile of the Day 1 hike along the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass Loop in the Granite Peak Wilderness.

The trek on the first day starts with a ~2.5 mile walk along a dirt road that leads between the Trinity Trailhead and the Phelps Creek Trailhead. This section of the trek is not exciting, so it’s good to get it out of the way at the start. After you reach the Phelps Creek Trailhead, you begin hiking along the Phelps Creek Trail towards Spider Meadow. The trail follows Phelps Creek for roughly 4-5 miles before you reach the meadow. There are several campsites in the Spider Meadow area. For the 4 day itinerary, it is best to continue hiking and camp closer to the Spider Glacier. There are several campsites scattered near the bottom of the glacier. These sites have great views and set you up nicely to climb up the glacier in the morning when the snow is solid. If you are taking your time and doing the loop in 5 or 6 days, you could camp at Spider Meadow and then camp at Lyman Lake the next day.

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View of Spider Meadow along the Phelps Creek Trail (credit: John Strother)
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View of Spider Meadow along the Phelps Creek Trail (credit: John Strother)
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View of Red Mountain from near Spider Meadow on the Phelps Creek Trail (credit: John Strother)
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View of Chiwawa Mountain from the Phelps Creek Trail (credit: John Strother)
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After about the 9 mile mark on this day, the trail begins to climb more steeply as you approach the Spider Glacier area (credit: John Strother)
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View looking back (southeast) towards Spider Meadow after starting the climb towards the Spider Glacier (credit: John Strother)
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The trail up to the Spider Glacier is not super well marked, so you just follow small trails and cairns leading to the glacier (credit: John Strother)
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Near the base of the Spider Glacier, there are some very nice campsites that have views of Seven Fingered Jack Mountain across the Phelps Creek Valley. These campsites are scattered near the base of the Spider Glacier and are the suggested camp location for this itinerary (credit: John Strother)
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Photo of a campsite near the base of the Spider Glacier (credit: John Strother)

 

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Day 2: 10.2 miles; +3,540 feet / -3,630 feet; Spider Glacier to Image Lake

glacier-peak-backpacking-map-day2
Day 2 (magenta) map of the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Loop backpacking trip in the Granite Peak Wilderness. Going from the Spider Glacier to Image Lake.

Map of the Day 2 hike in the Granite Peak Wilderness (PDF)

glacier-peak-backpacking-elevation-day2
Approximate elevation profile of the Day 2 hike along the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass Loop in the Granite Peak Wilderness.

Day two is probably the most scenic day along the Spider Meadow – Buck Creek Pass Loop. You go over three passes (Spider Gap, Cloudy Pass, Suiattle Pass) and see several beautiful lakes. At over 10 miles with 3,000+ feet of elevation gain, this day is tough. Take it slow and enjoy the scenery! You camp next to Image Lake, which has some fantastic views of Glacier Peak. The day starts with a traverse of the Spider Glacier. Microspikes and trekking poles can be helpful in this section. The trail is not defined here, but it is not very difficult to find your way up over Spider Gap and down to Lyman Lake. Hikers just need to be cautious on the snow and avoid sliding, which can be dangerous.

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View looking up at the Spider Glacier. You hike over the glacier and reach Spider Gap after ~0.7 miles (credit: John Strother)
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Looking back down at the Spider Glacier from the top of Spider Gap (credit: John Strother)
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View from Spider Gap looking down at Upper Lyman Lakes. The trail down from the gap to the lakes is undefined (credit: John Strother)
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View of the Lyman Glacier and Chiwawa Mountain and one of the Upper Lyman lakes. The trail skirts along the east side of the glacier and lake as it heads down to the main Lyman Lake (credit: John Strother)
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View looking north towards Lyman Lake with Cloudy Peak in the background (credit: John Strother)
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Close up of icebergs calving off Lyman Glacier (credit: John Strother)
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Wide view of the bottom of the Lyman Glacier and Upper Lyman Lakes (credit: John Strother)
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Looking back at the Lyman Glacier and Chiwawa Mountain (credit: John Strother)
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The trail the heads long the east side of the Upper Lyman Lakes. This is a relatively flat section of trail that lasts ~1.5 miles (credit: John Strother)
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Looking back at Spider Gap (to the left), Chiwawa Mountain, and Lyman Glacier (credit: John Strother)
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You are treated to excellent views of Bonanza Peak as you hike towards Lyman Lake (credit: John Strother)
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A fat marmot along the trail (credit: John Strother)
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Near the 3.5 mile mark, you cross a small bridge that goes over Railroad Creek (credit: John Strother)
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After crossing the creek, you reach the north shore of Lyman Lake. There are some great views here. You can also take the trail that leads south along the west shore of Lyman Lake. This takes you up to a cascade and provides some great views (credit: John Strother)
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Lyman Lake and Bonanza Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View of Cloudy Peak, Lyman Lake, and Bonanza Peak from the south end of Lyman Lake (credit: John Strother)
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Railroad Creek cascade at the south end of Lyman Lake (credit: John Strother)
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After exploring Lyman Lake and the surrounding area, you take the trail west up to Cloudy Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View of Cloudy Peak from the trail near Cloudy Pass (credit: John Strother)
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The trail leading from Cloudy Pass to Suiattle Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View looking back at Spider Gap and Lyman Lake (credit: John Strother)
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View of Lyman Lake from Cloudy Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View north looking at the Agnes Creek Valley from near Suiattle Pass (credit: John Strother)
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After crossing Suiattle Pass, the trail skirts west along Miners Ridge. Here you get your first views of Glacier Peak in the distance (credit: John Strother)
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Fortress Peak from the trail along Miners Ridge (credit: John Strother)
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View of Image Lake with Glacier Peak in the background (credit: John Strother)
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View of two campsites above Image Lake that have great views of Glacier Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View of Image Lake with Glacier Peak in the background (credit: John Strother)
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View of Image Lake with Glacier Peak in the background (credit: John Strother)

 

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Day 3:  10.1 miles; +3,550 feet / -3,760 feet; Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass

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Day 3 (yellow) map of the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Loop backpacking trip in the Granite Peak Wilderness. Going from Image Lake to Buck Creek Pass.

Map of the Day 3 hike in the Granite Peak Wilderness (PDF)

glacier-peak-backpacking-elevation-day3
Approximate elevation profile of the Day 3 hike along the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass Loop in the Granite Peak Wilderness.

The third day of this loop is another tough ~10 mile hike with a good amount of elevation gain. You hike from Image Lake over Middle Ridge and then up to Buck Creek Pass. Near Buck Creek Pass there are several campsites to stay at for your last night. There are also some worthwhile short side trips you can take. These include hikes to the Flower Dome and to Liberty Cap. Both areas have some very nice views and are not too far from Buck Creek Pass.

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View from the shore of Image Lake in the morning before starting the 3rd days hike (credit: John Strother)
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The hike starts with a ~3 mile long backtrack east along Miners Ridge. At the 3 mile mark, there is a junction and you take the PCT south towards Middle Ridge and Buck Creek Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View from the trail along miners Ridge (credit: John Strother)
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Fortress Mountain from the trail leading up Middle Ridge (credit: John Strother)
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View from Middle Ridge looking back at Miners Ridge and Plummer Mountain (credit: John Strother)
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The trail travel up, over, and down the south side of Middle Ridge (credit: John Strother)
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Along the way there are some great views of Glacier Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from near Buck Creek Pass with the Liberty Cap in the background (credit: John Strother)
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Glacier Peak as seen from Buck Creek Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View looking up towards the Helmet Butte from the trail near Buck Creek Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View of the trail at Buck Creek Pass (credit: John Strother)
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Buck Creek Pass (credit: John Strother)

 

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……….

Day 4: 9.2 miles; +520 feet / -3,650 feet; Buck Creek Pass to Trinity Trailhead

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Day 4 (red) map of the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Loop backpacking trip in the Granite Peak Wilderness. Going from Buck Creek Pass to the Trinity Trailhead.

Map of the Day 4 hike in the Granite Peak Wilderness (PDF)

glacier-peak-backpacking-elevation-day4
Approximate elevation profile of the Day 3 hike along the Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass Loop in the Granite Peak Wilderness.

The last day involves a mostly downhill hike from Buck Creek Pass back to the Trinity Trailhead. The almost the entirety of the hike, the trail follows Buck Creek through a forested valley. If you want, you can take the side trip to Liberty Cap or High Pass in the morning before leaving camp at Buck Creek Pass.

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The trail leaving Buck Creek Pass and heading to the Buck Creek valley (credit: G Madsen)
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View looking south into the Buck Creek Valley (credit: John Strother)
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Looking back up at Buck Creek Pass after starting the descent into the valley (credit: John Strother)
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Fortress Mountain from the Buck Creek Valey side of the ridge (credit: John Strother)
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Looking back at the Liberty Cap from Buck Creek Valley (credit: John Strother)

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Here are some similar trip reports!

The Enchantments Traverse – Alpine Lakes Wilderness (18 mile point-to-point)

Titcomb Basin – Wind River Range, WY (40 mile route)

Cirque of the Towers Loop – Wind River Range, WY (45 mile loop)

Four Pass Loop – Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, CO (28 mile loop)

One Reply to “Spider Gap, Buck Creek Pass – Glacier Peak Wilderness (40 mile loop)”

  1. Really enjoyed this loop but my husband and me thought crampons would have helped on the spider glacier. We were slipping in our tennis shoes.

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