Ruby Mountain – North Cascades NP, WA
3 Days / 2 Nights – 4 Dudes
Trip & Meal Planning Report
by Chef Corso
It was time to get back out into the bushes and we selected North Cascades National Park for a buddy trip.
TOTAL MILES: 28
TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: 1300-7300 = approx 6,000 feet.
Below are some of the first questions and details we answered.
Where we goin?
4th of July pass / Ruby Mountain.
North Cascades, NP, WA
Around 3 hours drive from Seattle, WA.
1 first time backpacker
Permit needed. With Covidays, only 1 ranger station is open for back country permits in Marblemount, WA. We waited for 2 hours on a Friday morning to get what we needed. Always have a plan B & C in these types of situations and trust your ranger.
Water available on day 1 & 3. Will need to watch out and be mindful for day 2. Plan low-water recipes for day 2 dinner and day 3 breakfast.
Bear canister or hang.
We chose to hang.
Every trip has it’s excitement, potential challenges and unknowns.
For this trip our one big question mark was Day 2. Where would we be able to camp and what’s the water situation. Everything else we were pretty confident in with minimal route research.
The Meal Plan
For a 4 person trip, weight isn’t AS much of a concern as 4 people can share the load. But we still need to be mindful. As mentioned above, with water being uncertain for Day 2, I need to plan for a few low water recipes just in case.
First, I asked the crew about any dietary restrictions or major dislikes. None.
Awesome, much easier to plan when everyone eats everything.
Next, I checked the pantry and found that I had a few great items to build around: ramen noodles, polenta/grits, powdered eggs and dehydrated black beans. Then I thought about flavors that would be good for all of us and ways to change up the flavor profile to keep our bellies excited.
Here is what I went with:
B – Smoothies (at house)
drive to permit/trailhead
L – Mediterranean Grain Bowl –
2lbs 14 oz
D – Shiitake Sesame Ramen w/ Tofu
2 lbs 11 oz
Snacks – Coffee – Jerky
B – Black bean & Egg Brekkie Burritos
1 lb 15 oz
L – Meat, Cheese, Bread
2 lbs 9 oz
D – Tuscan Polenta
2 lbs 10 oz
B – Apple Fig Granola
2 lbs 8 oz
L – Trailgate Chorizo Queso & Beers (packed in car)
Now that our menu is decided, I downloaded all recipes and printed them out for easy planning, shopping, packing and cooking.
For 4 people, I like to pack 2 stoves.
1 – 2+ liter capacity and 1 – 1+ liter. This helps with morning coffee and provides a backpack up just in case something goes wrong.
After shopping, the next step is packing.
My go-to for recipe packing is stuff sacks and re-usable zip locks. It makes the process much easier for both packing as well as pulling recipes out for meal times. Check out below what our meal plan looked like.
This all weighed in at approx 15 lbs, which divided over 4 people = 3.75 lbs. Not a bad weight at all for these tasty meals.
Day 1 – Thunder Creek – Ruby base camp – 10ish miles
Day 1s are always slower than you think. And this was no different. We needed to drive 3 hours from Seattle, get a permit, ferry cars and finally start hiking. We left Seattle at 6am and starting hiking around noon. Always plan moderate Day 1s if you aren’t starting at your location. Things always take longer than you think.
Once we did start hiking, it was a delightful breeze hiking through Thunder Creek and some slow elevation gain up to 4th of July pass/campsite. This is around 5 miles and we completed in just a few hours. This also included a river stop for lunch. 4th of July campsite isn’t all that memorable. I would recommend Panther Creek over 4th of July. Much more interesting and better water sources.
Just after 4th of July camp there is a sign for the trail turnoff up to Ruby. This sign looks formidable and the trail is unmaintained but I assure you, the trail is very visible most of the way. Hardly any true scrambles.
For our specific permit, we could camp anywhere in the Ruby Mountain zone. The kickers is, it’s full of switchbacks, hundreds of downed trees and not a lot of flat ground. The first 2-3,000 feet of this chunk is sneaky tough. Lots of switchbacks and it takes a bit to finally clear through the forest.
As we started climbing, we realized the challenge ahead – where to actually set up camp. Not a lot of options and as the day ran on, we looked for anything reasonable. I was hopeful and pushed the crew a little farther than maybe everyone wanted, but…..we found a spot about 2,000 feet up from the turn off at around 5600 feet. Thank goodness. It was open, it was flat and had an amazing view.
We set up shop quick. Cooked up our ramen dinner and watched the sun set over some pretty amazing ranges to the West and South.
Day 2 – Ruby base camp – Peak – Ruby base camp – 8ish miles
With a solid nights rest on flat ground behind us, we took a leisurely morning knowing that all we needed to do was peak a peak and come back. Breakfast was a perfect amount. Filling but not too filling and we set off up the face not quite knowing how tough it would be. The trail continues with some consistent tough and more manageable switchbacks, both forest and blueberry meadows until around 6000-6500 feet, where it opens up to some loose rock and soft dirt patches. We followed the minimal cairns to the low slung saddle at the top of Ruby. This is a beautiful sight and you could easily stop here.
But the trail continues about 1/4 mile left and right to some additional mini peaks. To the left you get the true top of Ruby at 7300 feet, radio tower and stunning views North. And seeing both Diablo and Ross Lakes down the basin. Amazing 360 degree views. Well worth it.
We enjoyed the views and a classic meat, cheese, bread lunch and made our way back to camp in only about 90 min for some chill time and naps.
Dinner was Tuscan Polenta and hours watching the ridge line and skyline shift and the stars slowly come out.
Day 3 – Ruby base camp – Panther Creek trailhead – 9ish miles
Get out day. After a quick breakfast of apple fig granola we finished off the loop around Ruby.
The decent was quick to 4th of July turn off and even quicker down to Panther Creek. The creek is more rushing river and one of the prettier rivers I’ve seen in a long time. This trail hugs the river, then up a few hundred feet through some dense forest and moss, then back down. What is deceiving about the map is that this is actually a two ridge trail. You decend, then climb out of the river basin in the last few miles at a very steep grade, then decend multiple thousand feet in the last 2ish miles. (If you are starting this at Pather Creek, be ready for an immediate up, then steep down, forest/river meander, then consistent up to 4th of July). Either way you chose, its a moderate challenge to the Ruby turn off.
All this being said, absolutely beautiful river basin and one that looks not well traveled.
I cannot stress this enough. Do your future self a favor and plan a Trailgate snack, a cold cooler of extra water/beverages and a fresh set of cotton clothes. After a long trip, all you want is a snack and give yourself that cheersing treat to what you just accomplished. We packed water, a few beers and Chorizo Queso. So tasty.
Ruby Mountain is a great moderate + challenge that I highly recommend. Very accessible from both directions, very beautiful and the views are well worth any struggle. I would recommend doing this in 2 days for the most enjoyment but could be done in 1 with an early morning start.