A Wilderness Area of just over 530,000 acres in the North Cascades of Washington state, USA. It occupies most of the land between the North Cascades Highway and the border with Canada to the east of North Cascades National Park. The high point is on the top of 8,928 foot Jack Mountain, the 2,000 foot low point on the edge of the area near Ross Lake.

Because the wilderness area straddles the crest of the Cascades, it encompasses considerable variation in climate and ecology. The east side of the area is much drier than the west, due to the rain shadow cast by the mountains. In general, precipitation is considerably lower over the entire area than in the big wildernesses to the west, including the National Park and the Olympic Mountains. The westside forests are dominated by fir, hemlock, and cedar; to the east, you'll find ponderosa pine and larch, and increasing amounts of brown grass.

The west side is also somewhat more rugged, with steep-walled canyons and heavily glaciated peaks. To the east, the topography becomes gentler, with more rounded hills and broad plateaus.

Permanent residents of the wilderness include elk, mountain goat, gray wolf, and moose. There's a substantial lynx population, and grizzly bears frequently make the trip down from Canada.

The wilderness has a very complete trail network. Maintenance levels vary greatly among the trails, however; those that are popular with horse parties are always kept clear of logs, but also tend to be either a dust bowl or a mud pit, depending on the weather. The horse parties tend to stick to the trails running along the creeks, so backpackers looking to get away from them should seek out the more scenic ridgetop trails. When planning a trip, though, keep in mind that these high trails are often much more rugged and even sometimes hard to follow, so travel will be much slower along them. The horse trails can be useful for covering lots of ground to get into the core of the wilderness quickly.

The high trails of the westside are often snowbound until at least mid-July, and heavy snow starts falling again in October. In addition, many consider the eleven-day high elk hunt in late September to be a poor time to visit, due to the increased chances of getting shot dead. If you do visit then, wear bright colors and try to avoid looking or sounding like an elk.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the spine of the wilderness on its final run to Canada. If you spend any time along the PCT in mid-September you're bound to meet a few grizzled through hikers sprinting for the finish. The Pacific Northwest Trail also crosses the wilderness on its way from the Continental Divide in Montana to the Pacific Ocean.

Evidence of extensive mining for gold and tungsten is scattered throughout the wilderness, as well as around Harts Pass just outside the wilderness. The Pasayten has also been long popular with backcountry hunters and horsepackers, uses which continue to be important to this day. The area was designated Wilderness by Congress in 1968, in the same act that created the North Cascades National Park Complex.


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I love this place and so feel compelled to add some less-factual, subjective "information" that might in turn compel Northwesterners to visit this beautiful natural preserve.

The widerness area is bordered by Canada on the north, but the trails do not end there. On the other side of the border is Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia, also a decent place to take a hike. This must be the easiest land border crossing in the United States. The border there is actually quite an interesting sight- it consists of a swath cut directly through the forest, about 20 meters wide if I recall. Crossing the border on the Crest Trail, there is a small metal monument several feet tall off to one side of the trail. If you ever pass by there, lift the top off. There are wonderful things inside-- leave one of your own behind (but otherwise Leave No Trace).

Personally I find the west side of the Cascade Crest up here to be better backpacking, simply because of the incredible vistas of gnarled peaks available from the top of any ridge. But the eastern walk in from Iron Gate has its charms as well, and affords interesting views east into the Okanogan and Methow valleys.

I've walked thru the Pasayten from North to South on the Pacific Crest Trail, and from East to West on the Pacific Northwest Trail which there is often called the Boundary Trail (it follows the Canadian border much of the way, hence the name). Both times we exited at Ross Lake, which is an extremely long lake which stretches its northernmost finger into Canada. Boats are available to pick up hikers at places like Lightning Creek and ferry them back to Ross Lake Resort. If you get a nice "ferryman" and you prod him, he might take you back into one of the many gorges off the East shore of the lake. There's one in particular that ends in a spectacular waterfall.

Anyway, I'm rambling. If you're into backpacking and you're in the Washington/British Columbia area, you should go there at least once. It's preserved as a wilderness area so that you can appreciate it; take advantage.

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