The Sawtooth Wilderness of Washington offers some of the best scenery in the country- especially during the autumn months when larches turn bright yellow, insects are at a minimum, and the blue of alpine lakes is contrasted with the orange foliage of changing deciduous trees.
Our unique Sawtooth backpacking itinerary takes us to the timber-clad shores of Crater Lake, off-trail over a pass to majestic Upper Eagle Lake which sits in an alpine bowl, and off-trail over another pass to Martin Lakes. We also ascend 8,300ft Switchback Mountain for stunning views over Lake Chelan, the Methow Valley, and the expansive Glacier Peak Wilderness complete with snow-capped peaks. If you are looking for a Sawtooth backpacking trip that maximizes scenery of mountains, lakes, and fall colors- look no further.
Skills Covered in Sawtooth Backpacking Trip:
- How to pack and fit a backpack
- Group travel on and off-trail in mountainous terrain
- Basic navigation
- Leave-No-Trace Travel and Camping Techniques
- Campsite selection
- Self-care in the backcountry
- Camp cooking
- Foot care
PassportNot needed for US citizens
Minimum Age16 years old
- Group cooking equipment
- Guide Services
- Guide services and instruction
- Parking or entry fees (when applicable)
- Food or drinks
- Accommodation before or after the trip
- Personal clothing
- Personal backpacking equipment (rentals available)
- Gratuities for guides
We start at the Crater Creek Trailhead to the east of Lake Chelan. From the trailhead we hike 3.7mi through forest and ascend 2,200ft to deep-blue Crater Lake. Once there we are greeted by the bright yellow of larches reflected in dark blue water. We camp here for the evening.
After a lazy morning we begin traveling off-trail toward the second Crater Lake, and then up-hill toward a pass to the south. At the top of the pass we will see Upper Eagle Lake sitting high in a sparsely treed basin. With views in all directions we take photos at the pass, then descend to the lake for lunch. After lunch we begin a long off-trail traverse, keeping the hillside on our right we work our way around a ridge and gradually ascend another magnificent pass before descending to Martin Lake. We rest here for the evening and enjoy another spectacular night under the stars.
We have an easy morning, pack day-packs, and leave camp in place while we set-off for Switchback Peak. On our day hike to the summit we will ascend 1,900ft over 3.7mi. The summit of Switchback presents spectacular views over the North Cascades, including views of Mt. Goode, Buckner, Forbidden, Sahale, and the Glacier Peak Wilderness. After a long break to take-in the views and have some lunch we begin the stroll back to camp. At camp we enjoy a final celebratory dinner at Martin Lake.
This morning we wake around 6:30am, pack-up camp, and begin our descent back to the trailhead. We will gain just over 700ft and lose more than 2,700ft over 6.5mi on our hike out through golden larches and deep green fir trees. We reach the trailhead in early afternoon, and begin the drive back home with an optional stop for a celebratory late lunch/early dinner en route of Sawtooth backpacking trip.