Trappers Peak & X Mountain

Summit: 5,966ft

11.6m 4,000ft gain

Ancestral homelands of the: Nlaka’pamux & Sauk Suiattle

Trappers Peak and X Mountain stand high over Thornton Lakes in the North Cascades National Park and Stephen Mather Wilderness. It is a strenuous hike unless you’re going by North Cascade standards. Its relatively easy trailhead access and well maintained trail guide you to an incredible panoramic view of steep, jagged peaks and deep, lush valleys. This may be the best bang for your buck day hike in the American Alps! It’s also the easiest way to get a look at the extremely rugged Southern Picket Range! To add more excitement to a summit of Trappers Peak you can traverse to X Mountain, Thornton Peak or beyond. The only reason it stayed on my to-do list so long, as with all peaks in the North Cascades, is the park’s rule against dogs.

1st Trip: 7/25/2021

Had plans to go to a Seattle Sounders game Saturday night so naturally I fit in a sunrise hike in my favorite National Park. I drove 5 hours to the Thornton Lakes Trailhead Friday night and slept a few hours in the back of truck before waking up at 2:45am and getting moving by 3am.

The first 4 miles and 2,500ft on the Thornton Lakes trail went by quickly. Usually night hiking is mindless but I was getting cloaked in spider webs which kept me engaged. It reminded me of summer hiking in North Georgia. From the ridge top the trail drops down to Thornton Lakes but a boot path continues up the ridge for 7/10ths of a mile and 1,000ft of elevation to Trappers Peak. The Southern Pickets came into view as I approached the summit.

After some light scrambling, I reached the rocky summit at 5:10am with 20 minutes to spare before sunrise!

I spent the next 30 minutes watching the mountains light up around me.

Davis Peak, Jack Mountain, Crater Mountain and Ruby Mountain.
The Southern Picket fence!
A small part of the Neve Glacier cuts between Pyramid, Pinnacle, Paul Bunyans Stump and the Needle, the Horseman, Snowfield Peak.
Looking north at upper Thornton Lake, X Mountain, Thornton Peak, Mount Triumph and Mount Despair.

Color started to pop around 5:20am.

Mount Despair
Mount Terror, Mount Degenhardt, Pyramid Peak, Inspiration Peak, East Towers and the McMillan Spires.
West and East McMillan Spire. West Mac is high on my to-do list. Minimum 9kft of gain!
The Trapezoid, Little Devil Peak and Big Devil Peak.

At 5:30am Mount Triumph and Thornton Peak were bathed in alpenglow.

The beautiful ridge I’d traverse to X Mountain with Thornton Peak and Mount Triumph towering behind.
X and Triumph

As light took over the mountains and I started to freeze I made my way over to X Mountain only a half mile away.

I hugged this ridgeline all the way to the summit.
The northeast face on X drops 1,500ft into the Triumph Glacier Basin.

X Mountain, formerly known as Cross-Dike Peak, got its unofficial name from the white quartz veins in the summit rock that form an X.

Looking back at Trappers Peak.
Unobstructed view of Thornton and Triumph!
Triumph and Despair, an aptly named tandem if there ever was one.
Mount Despair

Light was beaming through the Southern Pickets and into the Terror Basin!

Around 6:15am I traversed back to Trappers Peak.

The mountains were even more glorious in the daylight!

Coming for you West Mac!

The constant itch for getting into the mountains was sufficiently scratched! Nothing beats a sunrise in the North Cascades! At 7am I started my descent and was bid farewell by a covey of ptarmigan. With their support I made it down in no time.

Bye Pickets!
Lower Thornton Lake

As I drove away from the trailhead, down the gravel Thornton Lakes Road, I spotted a black bear! A minute later I passed someone walking up the road. They were in for some possible excitement.

I was very happy with the efficiency of this trip. I had a 2 1/2 hour drive to Seattle and still made it to lunch with friends at 1pm! I was a little tired but the sounders game was a blast. Weekend well spent!

My man, Norman!

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