Mileage: 4.8 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 310ft/2040ft
Map: Green Trails McGregor MTN No 81, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Stehekin Bakery!
6/4/2017 We spent the weekend camping up from Stehekin in the North Cascades National Park and now is definitely the time to go! We had very little bugs (if any), wild flowers everywhere and the water is RUSHING!
I have only ever gone up and down on the PCT here so we took a gamble on the Agnes Gorge Trail. I had never been nor heard much about it but we had time before the shuttle bus would pick us up at 9am to hike this little gem. Of course, starting out you aren’t so sure it is a wise choice because you are walking in the trees, up from the creek without a view and can only listen to the rumble as it moves through the gorge. And you only seem to move further and further away.
The trail was relatively flat with a little gain, wide and well maintained. A little over a mile in we left the park boundary and entered the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
Less than 1/4 mile from here we had our first stream crossing but a log across the water kept our feet dry. Barely.
We had a few fleeting views of McGregor at 1.5 miles in but stayed mostly in the forest as we admired the contour trail and wildflowers. I am always amazed at the prolific paintbrush in this area and how many shades of orange you can find.
It wasn’t until about 2 miles in that the trail opened up for views of the gorge and redeemed the trail. It hugs the side of the slope pretty tightly here, if you are afraid of heights this will probably bit a bit of a test. But SO worth it.
We stopped for pictures and gauged our time, opting to continue on. There was only supposed to be 1/2 mile more to go, maybe there was more to come? There was a stream crossing just up from here after making our way around where rock is carved away from the back slope to make room for the trail but rock hopping was possible.
5 minutes later, we spotted water flowing through the trees on the left and down into the gorge but the creek itself was too far down in the gorge to see.
We kept on walking, imagining that there had to be a reason for the trail to simply run out 2.5 miles and then stop. Why build a trail out here without a payoff?
Oh, what a payoff. I don’t know what it looks like normally but to say the water coming down into the gorge right now was breathtaking. It started with another waterfall spilling down from the side of the canyon from an unnamed creek off the Heather Ridge, fanning out in an impressive display.
Just down from here the trail branched off to the left and we saw evidence of a bridge that must have reached across the span of the canyon (I would later learn this was the original trail before the new Agnes Creek bridge was built closer in on the PCT south of High Bridge). I can’t imagine what that would have been like to cross when the water was flowing like this.
But the most jawdropping spot was just a bit further from this on a rock outcropping where you could see the creek (just a creek??) drop down in a thundering cascade about 30 ft tall. It wasn’t hard to make this our breakfast spot before turning around to hustle back to make our bus into town.
Directions: From Stehekin, take the shuttle bus up to the end of the Stehekin Valley Road. From here cross the bridge over the Stehekin river and continue up the road just a switchback past the junction for the PCT (Agnes Creek Trail) and the High Bridge camp. The trailhead will be on your left.