West Fork Foss River Valley + Iron Cap Mountain / 西支流福斯河谷

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West Fork Foss River Valley in Alpine Lakes Wilderness harbors famous lakes like Big Heart Lake. Meanwhile, Iron Cap Mountain perches above Chetwoot Lake atop the basin over the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Big Heart Lake in West Fork Foss River Valley
Big Heart Lake in West Fork Foss River Valley

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West Fork Foss River Valley at a Glance

Access: West Fork Foss River Trailhead
Round Trip: 24 miles
Elevation Range: 1640′-6347′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

The yellow lab and I crossed out Ptarmigan Peak last week. As luck would have it, the national park service closed North Cascades Highway due to wildfires. While waiting for the road to reopen, we visited West Fork Foss River Valley.

The black pup hasn’t climbed this summer, so it was great to take him backpacking. My two friends had invited me on the high traverse earlier in the week. But after some thinking, I opted to hang with the dogs instead.

Dry riverbed
Dry riverbed

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West Fork Foss River Trail

Stunning lakes nestled in the basins were the most memorable for our first time. But it was surprising to see many tents by Trout Lake. Farther up, the number of people dwindled until we reached Big Heart Lake.

Beyond the water, we saw one tent every switchback along the trail. So we only stayed long enough to get a picture of the lake before leaving the chaos. Soon, we were on Atrium Ridge between Big Heart Lake and Angeline Lake.

A pitstop at Copper Lake
A pitstop at Copper Lake

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En Route to Chetwoot Lake

We started late in the afternoon. So it was after sunset when we hiked to the south end of Atrium Ridge. En route, we met a group camping by the 5320′ pond, who also wanted to avoid the crowds. Then we chatted a bit before continuing down the path.

Soon, we walked past Little Chetwoot Lake to reach Chetwoot Lake. In the dark, I found a flat spot on the tiny peninsula by the outlet and set up the tent. Who would’ve thought that we’d be the only ones here?

First view of Angeline Lake from Atrium Ridge
First view of Angeline Lake from Atrium Ridge

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Iron Cap Mountain Climb

The following day, the pups and I left for Iron Cap Mountain. Since we were here, we might as well climb something during the trip. Soon, we were north of Point 6077 at 5900′ after going through lots of talus and heather.

We bypassed Point 6077 from the east through more talus to Iron Cap Mountain’s west ridge. The green-colored Iron Cap Lake below looked very inviting. Perhaps we would pay a visit a long summit visit if time allowed.

The warrior you were born to be
The warrior you were born to be

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Iron Cap Mountain Summit Views

En route to the top, we sidestepped several outcrops and dense shrubs from the north. It was my first time seeing a gazillion lakes from a mountain. So it was quite the vantage point in West Fork Foss River.

From the top, the impact of this summer’s wildfires was clear. Despite the smoke, we could still make out the nearby peaks. The Stone Kingdom was just as impressive here as seeing them from other high points.

South view
South view

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Leaving Iron Cap Mountain

I signed the register and read through several “thought-provoking” entries. Write a blog, people! Then we left through the north ridge down to Iron Cap Lake. After playing in the water, we went through a notch west of the outlet.

From the gap, dropped to Azure Lake before going up to the knob on the west. There was a front-row view of the stunning Angeline Lake. I also saw some Azurite Lake but no signs of Otter Lake farther east.

Leaving Iron Cap Mountain
Leaving Iron Cap Mountain

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Back to Chetwoot Lake

It felt great to be lazy for once on a backpacking trip as we spent time exploring. Then we return to camp shy of sunset. After dinner, while hanging up the food in the dark, we heard noises from Little Chetwoot Lake.

As it turned out, what I had thought was some wild animal were my two friends! They planned to be here the night before, but the ridge run took longer than anticipated. So they ended up sleeping on the ridge. Fun times!

Labrador Retrievers playing in Iron Cap Lake
Labrador Retrievers playing in Iron Cap Lake

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Exiting West Fork Foss River Valley

My friends continued the high traverse through Iron Cap Mountain early the following day. In the spur of the moment, they also climbed La Bohn Peak and Mount Hinman. As fun as it looked on the map, it sounded exhausting.

The dogs and I lounged by the lake on our last morning in the valley. Then we dillydallied our way out of the area before noon. But the thought of returning through the bustling Big Heart Lake made me cringe.

Last night in West Fork Foss River Valley
Last night in West Fork Foss River Valley

See more trip photos here.

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