A beautiful PNW summer is upon us, and the promise of longer, warmer days pull many of us to the great outdoors. Heed the call!
Fortunately, we have a plethora of natural parks and lands to enjoy. Pick any one of them and you really can’t go wrong! If you are looking for a new backpacking route that is moderately challenging, bursting with wildflowers, dog-friendly, and tops out with expansive landscape views allow me to suggest Navajo Pass. In early July, mid-week, this little family of one adult, two kids and one dog, explored the pristine beauty of this trail tucked away in the Teanaway Mountains.
To access Navajo Pass/Peak, you begin at the Stafford Creek Trailhead, which is about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Seattle. This trail takes you through a variety of gorgeous landscapes and an absolutely stunning array of wildflowers. In early July, we were met with bursts of lupine, tiger lilies, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, anemone, yarrow, scarlet gilia, pearly everlasting, Jeffrey’s shooting stars, and countless others whose identifications elude me! Stafford Creek bubbles alongside the trail for a good portion of the hike, and provides opportunities to cool your pup’s feet, and filter more drinking water.
After five solid miles of hiking, and about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, the lush expansive meadow of the campground is a welcome site. Plenty of campsites can be found around the perimeter of the meadow. However, if you seek more solitude, continue hiking on the trail above the meadow where you can discover sites among the rockier terrain. For the bold adventurers among you, there is a sweet spot to pitch a tent on the Pass towards the Summit – just make sure you have a solid tent which can withstand gale-force winds. The nighttime winds bring no mercy! We pitched our tent on the rocks above the meadow, hung our hammocks, strung up our food, and enjoyed the quiet of the setting sun.
After a night of exploding starry skies, a morning pass/peak ascent is a fantastic way to ring in day two. If you get started in the earlier morning hours, not only do the cooler temperatures make the exposed hike more bearable but chances are better you’ll have the peak all to yourself!
From the meadow, it is a gradual 0.5 mile hike through a cool moonscape zone to Navajo Pass, bringing you to 6,000 feet of elevation from sea level. Here at the Pass, you are suddenly greeted with a breathtaking view of the dark granite rocks of the Stuart Mountain range, forested Earl Peak, and the iron-rich red butte to the South of Earl. If you aren’t feeling confident about continuing the climb to the Peak, the Pass is a perfectly respectable stopping point. However, if you desire an even more dramatic expansive view of the mountains, with possible views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, I highly encourage the push to the summit.
From the Pass to the Peak, you are looking at covering a gain of 1,223 feet within one mile. The climb is on loose rock/earth and only for the sure-footed. It is an unrelenting uphill climb, and poles are useful for helping on both the ascent and descent. Both of my children were powerhouses throughout the journey, although promises of milkshakes may have been used as a motivational technique. Our dog made this peak climb twice with me in one day, because I was determined to watch the sunrise from the highest vantage point. Thankfully, hammocks awaited us back at camp for those blissful afternoon naps.
On the third morning, a Saturday, we packed up camp and set out for the decent back to the trailhead. On the way down, we passed many day hikers and backpackers beginning their trip into the valley. Although the meadow is large enough to accommodate a number of hikers, I was very grateful we were able to enjoy the solitude of a mid-week trip in the backcountry, in quiet communion with the mountains, wildflowers, butterflies and chipmunks.
Whatever your outdoor destination of choice this summer, the principles of Leave No Trace are critically important. These outdoor ethics are for the preservation and protection of the land for generations to come. In so doing, get out there and discover your own magic!
Total mileage: 11 miles
Difficulty: Moderate (Class 2)
Time: 5 hours up (lunch break, water break and kid breaks), 2.5 hours down
To Peak (from Pass)
Total Mileage: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (Class 2/3)
Time: 3 hours total