Ladies Loop Larch Run

Stop and Stare

Deep up the Icicle Canyon, past the popular Enchantments, lies a plethora of deserving trails and abundant larches. Last year, I did a Jack Creek Orbit, which was my largest two day push at the time. This year, Kelly suggested that we do the Ladies Loop as a larch march. It had been seven years since I did the Ladies Loop as a backpacking trip, so I was excited to go back in fall!

Kelly invited a bunch of friends from her Issaquah Alps Trail Running Club, so we had ten people in total – Brandon, Danielle, Alex, Violeta, Nastassia, Will, Kathryn, John, Kelly and me. Most of the group started hiking up the Chatter Creek trail while a few of us drove to the end of the road to set up the car shuttle. We caught up to the rest of the group taking a break on a wonderful granite slab just beneath Chatter Creek Pass.

The whole crew with a “tasteful” sprinkling of larches.
Nastassia repping the club swag!
Dr. Will gives us a geology lesson!
Big Stu with a fresh coat.

The fresh snow had melted from southern aspects, but the north side of Chatter Creek Pass still held a few inches of snow. The trail was packed down and a little slick, but not too bad.

Descending from Chatter Creek Pass.
Violeta carefully making her way through the slick sections.
Cute little larchies!
Kathryn is stoked!

The meadows between the pass and Lake Edna featured beautiful golden larches. I expected the larches to be a little greener due to the Chiwaukum’s lower elevation and southwestern location, relative to other larch areas, but they were just about perfect!

Jogger John!
Wonderful meadows like this.
Distant larches on Big Lou.
The snow, rock, and larches created such beautiful contrast.
Looking back towards the pass and Cashmere.

We took a break at Lake Edna to get water and eat food before heading up Cape Horn. We passed a few hikers on the way to Lake Edna, the last we would see all day! It is always shocking to me how empty the upper Icicle Canyon is, despite the incredible trail network and beautiful mountains. They may not be the Enchantments, but they are wonderful in a different way.

Arriving at Lake Edna.
Fall on the left, winter on the right!

After the climb up to Cape Horn, we had a steep snowy descent to Ladies Pass. Those who brought microspikes put them on, but it was relatively easy to get traction because the 6-8 inches of fresh snow was still dry and had not been through freeze thaw cycles.

Crossing the snowy northern aspect towards Ladies Pass.

Ladies Pass is the junction where the Chiwaukum High Route, a big high route I did two years ago, heads north. I always love seeing the intersection of different experiences and memories – almost all of them good.

Beautiful streaks of color throughout the frame!

From Ladies Pass, we passed above a beautiful hanging basin. The meadows were losing their color, but still had some hues of yellow and orange. In the distance, Grindstone glimmered with fresh snow and golden larches. It was a beautiful scene – my favorite of the entire trip.

Kelly running for the camera!
Grindstone and a beautiful meadow.

With the wide reaching views, stunning fall colors, and fresh dusting of snow, the scenery was absolutely incredible. The others accused me of underselling the beauty of this loop; to be honest, even my expectations were exceeded.

Looking back on Cape Horn.
It felt like an artist had dabbed colors all across the canvas!

It was truly the perfect conditions – a smattering of fresh snow, deep reds, golden larches, and bright sunshine. It really does not get much better than this!

Kelly and me with Upper Florence Lake behind.
Brandon posing on his first PNW fall colors experience!

At Mary’s Pass, we reached our high point of nearly 7,000 feet. At this point, the views open up across the entire Central Cascades, from Mt. Daniel and Glacier Peak. We could even see the Olympics and Mt. Baker on this crystal clear fall day!

The red meadows of Doughbob, with the Monte Cristo Peaks and Sloan in the distance!
Dancing off into the distance towards Glacier Peak.
Larches and Mt. Daniel with a fresh coat!
Looking back on Ladies Peak.

Once down at Frosty Pass, we regrouped for the long descent to Icicle Creek. There was a brushy mile but most of the trail was in very good condition.

Pretty leaves down in the valley.

Both the Icicle Creek and French Creek bridges were “out”, but it was still easy to get across on remnants of the bridge or alternative rock hops with some planks provided.

Crossing Icicle Creek on the broken bridge.
Crossing French Creek.

I was surprised by the beauty of the Icicle Creek Trail. There were giant old growth trees, a mossy floor, and soft ground. We had a big group, but everyone was still moving well and actually jogging on the way out. Stoke was high all the way to the finish!

Cruising out on the Icicle Creek Trail.

The Ladies Loop was a special day with amazing scenery and a great group of friends! It was awesome to share this experience with many people, many of which had never seen fall colors like this, or this region of the Cascades. The amount of fresh snow was perfect, making the scenery even more beautiful while not creating particularly difficult travel conditions. Some days, everything just lines up! We will all treasure this day for a long time.


  • The route was about 19-20 miles and 6k ft gain. If you ran the road, the would add a few miles.
  • This is one of the best moderate trail loops for fall colors in the state! Most routes with comparable scenery are longer than 20 miles or more than 6k gain.
  • I like starting with Chatter Creek because then you have steep climb, followed by a long runnable descent down the Icicle to finish. I also think the views are better heading in this direction.
  • Water was abundant – lots of flowing creeks.
  • The trails were in pretty good shape considering how little traffic this area sees. There was a brushy mile or so below Lake Margaret.

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