The holiday weekend crowds were delightfully sparse along the Pacific Crest Trail between Harts Pass and Grasshopper Pass. A parking spot was available, there were no lines at the outhouse, and the hikers were stretched few and far between.
All the elevation was gained via Harts Pass Road 5400. The road climbs above 6,000 feet in elevation into the heart of the North Cascades, where Harts Pass accesses a network of trails into the vast Pasayten Wilderness.
Harts Pass is the highest road in the state of Washington. Built in 1893, the route gave access to gold and silver mines and over 1,000 permanent residents.
According to “High Hopes and Deep Snows, How Mining Spurred Development of the Methow Valley,” author Marcy Stamper states the town of Barron near Harts Pass served 2,500 miners with a post office, a butcher shop, a trading company, several restaurants, gambling establishments and “dancing women.” The road is named after Thomas Hart, the mine owner who built the road to transport equipment and ore. When the gold ran out, so did the people. The town of Barron was hastily abandoned in 1907, people left just as quickly as they first appeared, leaving tools of trade and personal belongings behind. Sally Portman, in her book, “The Smiling Country” relays the humorous account of sisters Ruth and Florence McLean camping up at Hart’s Pass with their family in 1910:
“The two sleuths dove into some old boxes left in haste by former dance hall girls and delightedly lifted out fancy-lady dresses … Florence put on one and started running as fast as she could up the path. When asked why she was running away, Florence answered, ‘I heard this dress belonged to a fast woman and I’ll bet I’m just as fast as any of them.’”
All that remains today are the views that leave one either speechless, or reaching for superlatives. Summer flowers are still in limited bloom, while other blooms have dried to perfection on the stem. The larch will turn golden in a few short weeks. The hike from Harts Pass to Grasshopper Pass is relatively easy and flat, following the ridgeline along the Pacific Crest Trail. To get there, travel Lost River road from Mazama to the end, continue on the gravel forest service road 5400. At roughly 13 miles on 5400, the road forks. To the left is Meadows Campground, straight on is Harts Pass. There are many trailheads and views at Hart’s Pass, but for this hike, I recommend turning left and heading towards Meadows Campground. At another fork in the road, the left leads to the campground, while the right fork continues to Brown Bear Trailhead. Take the right fork and park at the Brown Bear Trailhead.
Follow the trailhead to the Pacific Crest Trail mark. A large sign indicates left to Glacier Pass, and right to the Canadian Border. Turn left. Grasshopper Pass is 4.7 miles from this trailhead. A detailed trail description with mileage and points of interest can be found at www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/grasshopper-pass.