Big Chief Mountain by Cowboy Mountain via Stevens Pass Ski Resort / 大酋長山

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Big Chief Mountain is a notable high point over Stevens Pass. Together with Cowboy Mountain, the two peaks tower above the well-known Stevens Pass Ski Resort. Avalanche danger aside, the mountain makes an excellent winter activity destination with views abound.

Leaving Big Chief Mountain
Leaving Big Chief Mountain

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Big Chief Mountain at a Glance

Access: Stevens Pass Ski Resort
Round Trip: 2.4 miles
Elevation Range: 4040′-5858′
Gear: microspikes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface

Big Chief Mountain has been on the back burner because of its proximity to the ski area. I thought that the routes were technical until last night’s research. But it ended up being a moderate outing.

The pup and I spent a long day yesterday in North Cascades. Then today, we enjoyed another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. The short distance and low vertical gain also fit the criteria of something new and lowkey.

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Steep Climbing in the Forest

The dwindling number of vehicles at the resort indicated the tail end of the ski season. Lot E was empty when we pulled in, also when we returned. I saw tracks behind the snow berm. So we followed them uphill. Microspikes worked well on the firm but slick snow.

The slopes were steep lower down. But the climb felt effortless with the existing tracks. A few reports mentioned that the place was the go-to for mountaineering field trips. And it was evident that some groups have been here in recent weeks.

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Southwest Ridge

The two large clearings had soft snow. Postholing was minimal, so I never put on snowshoes. I got glimpses of Skyline Ridge through the semi-open forest. Before long, we were on the southwest ridge amid the dozens of ridgelines.

While I took photos, the pup raced down the ridge toward the voices of two skiers. He came back in time before I started going up toward the top. There were only ski tracks up here. So the field trip groups had stayed down in the forest. Soon, we were on the breezy summit.

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Big Chief Mountain Summit Plus Views

Morning temperatures were higher than the forecast. It got warm quickly once the breeze stopped. Later, the two skiers we heard earlier came up and joined us for a while. They had taken the ski lift up to the ridge. But they were on their way to ski in the Mill Creek Basin. What a great idea!

Views were excellent today! East views included Jim Hill Mountain and Rock Mountain. Then views to the south were K9, Mount Daniel, and the impressive Bulls Tooth. To the west were Mount Sawyer and Bald Eagle Peak. Labyrinth Mountain and Jove Peak to the north were also viaible.

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Despite the short climb, it was surprising not to see other hikers. So after a half-hour conversation with the skiers, they went back down the ridge to Mill Creek Basin. But the pup and I stayed for another half your. So we could enjoy the solitude before leaving.

Back on the southwest ridge, we walked farther down to check out the ski area. I thought about going over to Cowboy Mountain. But I decided to stick to the plan. So we stopped before Point 5675 and turned around. Then we went down the forest and out to the parking lot.

Thanks for a nice and short day
Thanks for a nice and short day

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Norman Haynes

    Love that photo of K9 Peak! Many years ago a group of us flew paragliders off Big Chief ridge from just outside ski area boundary signs. I couldn’t launch myself with my snowboard on so one of the guys grabbed my harness and threw me off the hill! I caught a thermal rite after launch and flew west along the ridge crossing over the chair lift. I thought I was going to have a perfect landing in a huge flat area near the power lines but did a huge face plant instead! Soft snow so no problem.

    Most of the group went to drink and watch football in the bar but me and a guy on skis went back up to fly again. We decided to leave our ski gear at the ridge top and get them later. We flew 2 more times but didn’t realize how early they shut down the back lifts! We were the only ones around and the lift guys were pissed! They almost made us hike out. Finally they let us take chair back to top but our ski stuff was still out of bounds on the ridge. None of the guys would let us hike over to get it. Finally this girl on ski patrol said she would ski over there and get our stuff. She skied down that steep backside run with my snowboard, a pair of skis and poles in her arms and brought it up the lift! She was amazing and kind beyond belief. That was one crazy day – we should have been banned for life from the ski area!

    Great photos as always!


    hey I have a lot of conflicting data on the GPS for the winter route. any way you could share the GPS you have for this one with me? I’d appreciated it!

    1. onehikeaweek

      Hi Andru,

      Thanks for reaching out. Sure, feel free to contact me on here.

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