West Fork Foss River Valley / 西支流福斯河谷

  • Reading time:8 mins read

Glad we got Ptarmigan Peak out of the way at last. Because of the recent wildfires, forest service had shut down the North Cascades Highway. While waiting for the road to reopen, the pups and I went into West Fork Foss River Valley.

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: TBD
Elevation Range: 1640′-6347′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

Earlier in the week, two friends invited me to do a ridge run in West Fork River Valley. It’s the ridgeline that divided West Fork Foss and East Fork Miller drainages. But as tempting as it sounded, I opted to take the pups backpacking.

The three of us haven’t spent much time together outside this summer. So it was great to go on another camping trip with them. My two friends stopped by our campsite at Chetwoot Lake on night two. Then they continued with the rest of the traverse.

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West Fork Foss River Trail

Most lakes in the valley looked spectacular. But it was shocking to see many people camping by Trout Lake. Then the farther up we went, the fewer the people. But that was until we reached Big Heart Lake.

Beyond the water, there was one tent next to every switchback. So we stopped just long enough to photograph the lake before leaving the chaos behind. Then we went up to Atrium Ridge between Big Heart Lake and Angeline Lake.

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Getting to Chetwoot Lake

We had a late afternoon start. So when we hiked through to the southern end of Atrium Ridge, it was after sunset. Later, we met a group camping by the 5320′ pond. They, too, wanted to avoid the crowds. So we chatted a bit before we continued down the hill.

Later we walked past Little Chetwoot Lake. Then we reached Chetwoot Lake shortly. By then, it was too dark to see the water. I managed to find a flat spot on the tiny peninsula by the outlet. So I set up our tent there. Hard to believe that we were the only ones around.

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Iron Cap Mountain Climb

The following day, the pups and I left for Iron Cap Mountain. I figured we could go up to one summit during the trip. Then through talus and heather, we went up to 5900′ on the north ridge of Point 6077.

Later we bypassed Point 6077 from the east on more talus and reached Iron Cap Mountain’s west ridge. The green-colored moraine lake down below looked very inviting, and so perhaps we could go down there afterward.

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Iron Cap Mountain Summit Views

En route to the top, we bypassed a few outcrops and a ton of 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 evident. The nearby views were generally decent but with a tint of smoke. The Stone Kingdom was just as impressive as seeing them from other high points here.

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I signed the register and read through some thought-provoking entries. Then we left the top through the north ridge down to the moraine lake I saw earlier. After playing in the water, we continued through a notch west of the outlet.

We first made our way down to Azure Lake. Then we walked up to the knob west of the water to get a close-up view of the stunning Angeline Lake. Azurite Lake was somewhat visible. But too bad I couldn’t see Otter Lake farther east of here.

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Back to Chetwoot Lake

It felt great to be lazy for once on a backpacking trip. We spent some time scoping out the area. Then we went back to camp just shy of sunset. After dinner, while hanging up our food in the dark, we heard noises coming from Little Chetwoot Lake.

Glad it was my two friends and not some wild animals! They had planned on coming to Chetwoot Lake the night before. But the ridge run took more time than they had allotted, and they ended up sleeping on the ridge. Fun times!

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Leaving West Fork Foss River Valley

Early the following day, my friends continued their high traverse through Iron Cap Mountain. Later they told me that they also had climbed La Bohn Peak and Mount Hinman. As fun as it sounded, it also seemed exhausting.

The dogs and I spent our last morning lounging by the lake. Then we dillydallied our way out of the area in the late morning. But the thought of going back through the busy Big Heart Lake had made me cringe.

See more trip photos here.

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