Navaho Peak Loop

It is October already and long warm days with no snow are coming to an end. I wanted to get in another 4000' gain hike while I could. A little fall color would be a bonus. Trip reports for the past two days showed 425 cars on Saturday and 353 on Friday at the Ingalls Pass Trailhead. Larch madness has really become insane. I decided on Navaho Peak. In the same valley as Ingalls but much less crowded. I recalled a few larch trees too. I wanted to get an early start so I was on the road at 6:00 am. It was lightly raining until I passed Highway 18. The forecast for the Teanaway was complicated. Haze turning to some sunshine. Afternoon winds gusting to 21 mph. Overnight the air quality in Seattle stayed the same at moderate but moved to unhealthy in North Bend. I hoped the sky would be clearer than forecast with less wind. It is a long 116 mile drive to the trailhead so I was hoping for okay conditions. The day before it was sunny in the mountains and the overcast never cleared in Seattle.

Going down the Teanaway Road the Ingalls crowd began to show up. Two of us driving at the speed limit soon became five of us as speedy drivers caught up with us. The first mile of the gravel road was a dusty mess of cars. At that point I turned off onto the Stafford Creek Road and left all the others. I reached the trailhead to find 18 cars. More than I expected. I hoped most were camping up in the meadow and not on the trail heading up early. That was the case. It was a balmy 36 degrees at the trailhead. The coldest I have felt since last winter/spring. There was no wind and I headed out fast and warmed up. Gloves helped. I was on the trail at 8:03 am.

There was a little bit of fall color down low. Also some green leaves that had not changed color at all. Just a mile up the trail I met a hiker coming down. Most folks did have masks. This guy did. After coming out of the forest I passed three women camping down by the creek. I passed two more folks coming down soon after. That was it for the first four miles. After passing the Standup Creek junction I began to pass quite a few groups. Seven in a mile. I kept moving off trail and there was enough room everywhere.  I was quickly accounting for most of the cars in the lot. It was warm enough before the meadow to stop and zip off pants legs and change into a short sleeve shirt. It was still morning but far above 36 degrees. At the meadow I saw folks camping and two backpackers getting ready to head down. Now I had seen 14 groups. That should fill the 18 cars below.

I headed above the meadow and into the moonscape where nothing grows.  Blue sky, clean air, and no wind. It was looking very good. I could look over to Earl Peak and see groves of golden larch trees below the summit. As I neared the pass I could see golden trees above. Where there that many larch at Navaho Pass. Most of my visits have been on snow in spring or in early summer. I had noticed larch trees but seldom if ever seen golden larch trees. I stopped at the pass and could see there were quite a few larch. Nothing like Ingalls Pass/Headlight Basin but I was alone at the pass. I would have 500 new acquaintances if I was at Ingalls. Not a bad trade off at all. Mt. Stuart is not visible from Navaho Pass but most of the Stuart Range is. What larch trees there are were close to peaking. I took a break enjoying the larch and lack of people.

As I was packing up I saw two folks coming up and one person farther back. It is 6 miles to 6041' Navaho Pass with about 3000' of elevation gain. The .80 miles to the top of Navaho Peak adds another 1182' of gain. It is quite steep in places. The County Line Trail climbs up from the pass I detoured up the ridge to get closer to some larch trees. The first two hikers passed by below me. By getting the right angle the larch trees really lit up in the sunshine. At the wrong angle they were muted. I was photographing more larch from just off the trail when the third hiker passed by. That was about the end of the larch so I concentrated on the summit climb.  Just below the summit the first two hikers were coming down.  That left just two of us on top. I reached the 7223' summit at 11:52 am. I did the first 6 miles in 2 1/2 hours. The larch really slowed me down on the last .80 miles as it took 1 1/4 hours. The feared wind never occurred. Mt. Rainier was in the clear. So were all the peaks of the Cascade Crest. Views were fantastic.

Navaho Pass and Peak have recently become very popular. Ten years ago I would not see many folks on the trail in the summer. Lately summer crowds have grown to several hundred cars. I won't be doing this hike during busy seasons. October still seems to be okay. In a year of a pandemic small crowds are a real bonus. I could have spend a few hours on the summit but I wanted to get down and home before evening. I started packing up at 12:20 pm. The other hiker started towards the east ridge. I asked if he was going down that way. I offered to go down with him as that was my route. I left my exact route with Gary but would rather not go down that route alone if possible. He was going to check out the ridge. I started down about five minutes later. Over the north side of the ridge there are some larch trees. They were most all golden. I had good locks over to Three Brothers with a forest of larch below.

The ridge starts out fairly flat then begins to descend. As I dropped the views towards Little Navaho improved. I could soon see the other hiker below me. He stopped near where the County Line Trail is crossed. He was out ahead for the drop to the Navaho-Little Navaho Saddle but waited for me there. I led the steep descent down to the Stafford Creek Trail. Did I mention steep. The other hiker took off while I had a water break. I did not see him again. There were about 3 1/2 mils to go from where we reached the main trail. I passed two backpackers and saw a hiker coming up. Otherwise I had a lot of solitude on the descent. After the steep summit climb and steep descent and the 8 mile hike the day before I was starting to feel it the last mile. I was glad to see the trailhead. I reached the car at 3:00 pm.

On the drive home the traffic was bad but moving It added half an hour to me morning time. It was 76 degrees in Cle Elum. At Snoqualmie Pass I left the sunshine. It was cloudy and dark the rest of the way home. Back to low overcast and 60 degrees in Seattle. Both weekend days I ventured into the mountains and had bright sunshine and warm temperatures. Seattle had misty mornings, no sunshine, and cool temperatures all weekend. I drove 350 miles hiked 20 miles and gained 5600' of elevation and had really beautiful October weather. All that and some unexpectedly good larch viewing made for a great weekend.

Parking Lot
First Fall Color
Muted Colors
Red Berries
Green & Yellow
Little Navaho Peak
Small Flowers
Fir & Pine Trees
Browning Grasses
Nearing Meadow
Shadows On Meadow
Nearing Pass
Larch At Navaho Pass
Sunlit Larch Trees
Ridge Full Of Larch
Larch Below
Larch & Summit
Nice Colors
Closer Look
Clark's Nutcracker
Christmas Tree
Larch & Blue Sky
Rock, Larch, & Sky
Larch & Earl Peak
Larch Needles
Upper End Of Larch
Mt.. Stuart & Larch
Lone Hiker
Getting Steeper
Cascade Crest Peaks
Stuart & Argonaut Peaks
Three Brothers & Larch
Closer Look
Navaho Ridge
Lower Ridge
Little Navaho Ahead
Navaho From Saddle
Red Leaves
Bright Yellow Leaves
More Fireweed
Fireweed Close Up
Small Waterfall
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2020