Usually when you tell people you are headed for a backpacking trip through Spider Gap, the response is, “Never heard of it.” It is for this reason that Spider Gap is the most underrated backpack destination in Washington. 

Route Stats

43 Mile Loop
7,500 ft elevation gain
Water: Lots
Snow: Some
Tree Cover: 50/50 tree cover (ballpark)
Alpine Lakes: 1
Views of Glacier Peak: Pretty darn good

The Trip

Full confession, I hate backpacking. So when my girlfriend Gina suggested a four day trip I begrudgingly agreed. The silver lining was the promised views and it would be our dog Kimchi’s first backpacking trip.

Day 1

We started our day by making the six hour drive up from Portland to the Trinity Trailhead. The loop starts and ends at two different trailheads, with a short stretch of forest road between them. We opted to do the loop counterclockwise, but would start at the lower trailhead (Trinity), to avoid having to do the forest road section the next day. 

The first part on the forest road dragged on, giving me ample time to adjust to a pack with four days worth of food, and to contemplate the hell I had gotten myself into. Upon reaching the start of the trail at Phelps Creek Trailhead we began hiking up Phelps Creek Trail, towards Spider Gap.

Due to our late start we didn’t make it far up the trail that day. We covered about 6 miles total before deciding to camp. 

The highlight of day 1 was discovering Kimchi is apparently terrified of tents, and attempted to run through the screen headfirst once inside.

Day 2

After getting up bright and early at 9am, we brewed coffee and broke down camp. After just a few miles we came up to a beautiful meadow, surrounded by mountains. This would be the start of incredible views that would only get better.

At the end of the valley, we began our climb up to the namesake of the loop, Spider Gap. This climb would be both the biggest and steepest of the whole route, needless to say I was excited. The trail was steeep for a bit over a mile, with some surprising exposure off the side, and fantastic views down the valley we had just come through.

Upon topping out the steepest of the climb we came to a scenic river, flowing right out of the snowfield we would finish our climb on. Like a fool I had forgotten sunglasses entirely so out of respect for my eyes I booked it up the snow. Pro Tip: look at your shadow when on snow on a sunny day with no sunglasses. It’s substantially better than looking literally anywhere else.

After the snow and one short scramble up a scree slope, we had reached the top of Spider Gap, and our hard work was rewarded with perhaps the best view of the entire trip.

We next descended into a glacial cirque, complete with crystal blue alpine lake. 

After traversing the length of this stunning area, we then were treated to another climb up to Cloudy Pass. After completing most of the climb, we decided to camp in a gorgeous alpine meadow. Hands down our best campsite it was an idyllic evening.

Day 3

We actually made a point to get up early on our third day, so we could push through the majority of what we had left on the route.  Light rain was in the forecast, so we wanted to get moving. 

A few hours into the day I came up with the stupid idea that maybe we could just finish the whole loop today. Sure we started the day only halfway through the loop, but we were moving quickly and feeling good. I pitched this idea to Gina, and was promptly shut down.

We continued on, and as we did clouds began moving in, and we started to feel rain drops. By this point we were just finishing up our final climb, and just had about nine and a half miles of downhill to go to the car. So, one more time I pitched finishing the hike today. My half baked reasoning was that by the time we made it to the next spot to camp we would only be six miles from the car. So at that point why suffer camping in the rain when you could suffer hiking in the rain to the warm dry car?

Long story short, we ended up going all the way to the car and it royally sucked. It was an hours long sufferfest, but in the end we were rewarded by a warm, dry, somewhat comfortable sleep in the back of our Prius.

Gear Highlights

Good To Go Mushroom Risotto: My favorite meal of the trip it was quite fantastic
Gossamer Gear The Two: An incredibly lightweight, roomy two person tent (available to rent at the Mountain Shop)
Hoka One One Speedgoat: I won’t say they kept my feet entirely comfortable, I dont know of a shoe that will after a wet 20 miles, but they did a fantastic job