Hannegan Pass Road

February 18, 2008

Hannegan Pass Road (Forest Service Road #32) leads to Nooksack Cirque Trail. In the winter the lower sections of road are used for cross-country ski touring and are ideally located next to a snowpark. The low elevation of 2000 ft (610 meters) means that snow conditions must be just right but the highway drive to this point is relatively flat and snow-free.

To reach the road, from the Glacier Public Service Center (shortly after passing Glacier WA on Highway 542), travel east on Mt. Baker Highway 542 for 12.5 miles (20 km) and turn left on Forest Service Road #32 (Hannegan Pass Road), just before the Nooksack River Bridge and park there.

Nooksack River supplies hydroelectricity near its source and at Nooksack Falls. The river is also blocked on the Middle Fork by the city of Bellingham to divert water into Bellingham's drinking water supply.

Nooksack River and Mount Shuksan

From the road you can have views of Nooksack River and Mount Shuksan, a glaciated peak located inmediately to the east of Mount Baker.

Nooksack River

The road eventually will reach a junction, the left road leads to Hannegan Trail after a 5 1/2 mile (8.85 km) drive or cross country trip in winter time. The right one leads to Nooksack Cirque Trail.

In summer you can see that some of the slopes reveal the flattened shrubs and splintered trees caused by the many avalanches that scour this valley every year.

Junction, left leads to Hannegan, right leads to Nooksack Trail

Two versions have been put forth to define the name Nooksack. One is that it means mountain men, the name given by Indians on the coast to this Salish tribe. The other version is that the tribe is named after noot-sa-ack, the bracken ferns that were one of their dietary staples.

In either case, the Nooksack are a Native American tribe in Whatcom County in the northwest corner of Washington State.

After 1 mile (1.61 km) the right road meets with Ruth Creek where there is a washed out bridge. This as a far as it is possible to travel by car.

Nooksack Cirque Trail follow the North Fork of the Nooksack River to its headwaters in a steep walled cirque at the base of Mt. Shuksan. The first challenge for hikers is the often-treacherous ford of Ruth Creek. Wade the creek, or cross on a log if one is available. Keep in mind that due to quickly rising water, a log that is crossable in the morning may be under water in the afternoon.

Bottom Right: Nooksack Cirque Trailhead

Because North Cascade peaks intercept frequent water-laden storms sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean, the range receives large amounts of rain and snow. This constant watering supports luxuriant vegetation on the west side of the range and a swarm of glaciers and snow fields on the higher peaks.

From west to east the amount of precipitation changes greatly: some western valleys receive up to 160 inches (4.06 m) of precipitation a year, whereas east of the Cascade crest, precipitation is only 10 to 20 inches (25.4 to 50.8 cm).

1. N 48.9058 W 121.6930 Elev: 517m Parking Lot and Trailhead
2. N 48.8937 W 121.6513 Elev: 561m Close to Nooksack Cirque Trailhead

Roundtrip length: 8.00 km (4.97 mi)
Time: 2.0 hours
Elevation gain: 44 m (144 ft)

Driving distance from Vancouver: 130.5 km (81.08 mi)