Approaching Rock Mountain via Snowy Creek is a shorter, less steep hike. Because it's north facing, snow sticks around a little longer, but that also means that gorgeous alpine meadows are full of wildflowers late into the season.
From the trailhead, the first mile parallels Snowy Creek, wandering through old-growth forest. At about three-quarters of a mile, there is a very brushy section, where salmonberries and willows abound and winter avalanches come down off Rock Mountain to sweep away any standing timber. The path here is generally free of obstacles, a good thing, since you can’t see your feet due to the brush.
One mile from the Snowy Creek trailhead, a sign points to the Nason Ridge Trail heading west for Rainy Pass on FS6700.
Once past the Nason Ridge turnoff, the trail soon crosses the headwaters of Snowy Creek and the climb begins for real. You have gained 300 feet so far, but you've still got 3000 feet to go. The first climbing section switchbacks across a series of small creeks and springs that appear out of the hillside. At the 2.25-mile point you go slightly downhill and enter a beautiful meadow. From here you can look up to the summit and fill your water bottles. Get a good drink and refill, there isn’t any water from here on.
The trail crosses the small stream at the entrance to the meadow and winds adjacent to the stream. The trail used to run along the left side of the meadow, but it was buried in avalanche debris in 2010, so now there are a few social trails across the grass and you will have to pick a path to meet up with the trail where it exits the meadow on the left.
Early in the season, the whole meadow is a bit of a bog so take care to keep your socks dry. From here you can look up and see the upper sections of the hike on the wildflower-covered approach to the summit; you don’t often get to see the top of a climb from the bottom, but don’t be intimidated. It's attainable--just take it one step at a time.
Once clear of the meadow, the trail climbs steeply up the forested ridge adjacent to the avalanche path that leads down to the meadow. There are old blazes that mark the trail and frequently mountain goats leave wool attached to the huckleberries. This is the only part of the trail where the views underwhelm, so it's best to just put you head down and grind up the hill. The trail touches the avalanche path a few times, and views from here show your progress. After a mile and a half, you are rewarded by leaving the trees behind and starting the traverses up the open slopes that grace the top of this hike.
We call this section, “the Sound of Music traverse”, big views and wildflowers, make for one of the nicest one mile sections of trail to be found anywhere. There are a few short switchbacks and few long traverses all decorated in wildflowers early in the season and huckleberries as fall approaches. There are a few trees clinging to the 40 degree (or steeper) slope, making for a very steep meadow.
A few weeks after the snow is off the slope the entire mountainside is draped in lupine, paintbrush, bear grass, and a riot of ground hugging wildflowers. Vistas stretch south into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and west across Stevens Pass.
The trail tops out on a saddle above Rock Lake. Later in the season, snow cornices often remain along the ridge, so be careful of the edge. There is a chance to chill and refill water bottles here. Walk 200 yards north along the ridgeline, gaining another 200 feet to achieve the summit and the site of the Rock Mountain fire lookout.
Views open north to Glacier Peak, east down Nason Ridge and south over Rock Lake, Highway 2 and into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
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More Stats for Nason Ridge North - Snowy Creek mountain bike trail
Altitude change3,005 ft
Altitude min3,598 ft
Altitude start3,598 ft
Altitude end1.3 miles
Distance climb3.3 miles
Distance down2,881 ft
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Nason Ridge... Trail Reports
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Routes with this trail
|Nason Ridge - Alpine Tour||22.2 miles|
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