Icicle Ridge Traverse

I’ve always wanted to explore Icicle Ridge, and Monday looked to be a great day for it: grey and misty in Seattle, sunny but not scorching hot in Leavenworth. I was excited to spend the day playing in the mountains on foot and bike. The plan was to park my car at the Icicle Ridge trailhead, ride my bike up Icicle Canyon to the Fourth of July trailhead, and then hike/run the Fourth of July Creek trail up to Icicle Ridge, before following Icicle Ridge all the way back to my car. For those of you that prefer a visual, here’s my route:

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Orange and yellow was by bike (~8 miles, 1000 ft of gain). Green was hike/run (~16 miles, 5500 ft of gain)

I woke up at 4 am and drove from Seattle to the Icicle Ridge trailhead (I know, if I were really hard-core I would’ve ridden my bike all the way from Seattle… some day 🙂 ).

I decided to ride in my running gear, mainly because I didn’t want to carry a full change of clothes in my running pack. This meant no chamois, and toe clips instead of clipless pedals. Things I learned: I prefer riding in chamois and with clipless pedals. The question is, do the benefits of chamois and clipless pedals outweigh the convenience of wearing one kit from start to finish? For this trip, the answer was no.


Bike = happy place!

The ride up the canyon was gorgeous. There were very few cars, and the only cars I did see were heading in the opposite direction, towards Leavenworth. I basically had Icicle Creek Rd to myself, on a bike, which was pretty awesome.

Bye bye bicycle. See you in a bit. 

Soon enough I was at the Fourth of July Creek trailhead. I locked my bike and helmet to a somewhat hidden tree and headed up the trail. It was a gorgeous day, and the sun was just starting to peek over the top of Icicle Ridge. I climbed the first few miles in the shade, with a cool breeze against my face.

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Lupine and balsamroot in the early morning light.
A nice distraction from the switchbacks


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I would’ve missed this guy completely had he not started rattling loudly as I walked by. 
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Close up of Mr. Snake (Well, as close as I dared. Didn’t want to bother him.)

The route is snow-free until you reach the junction of Fourth of July Creek and Icicle Ridge trails, with the exception of a few small patches of snow just before the junction. After the junction, the trail was mostly snow-covered in both directions along the ridge.

Upon reaching the ridge, I first headed northwest (left) to the old lookout site. The views were fantastic and I watched the fog roll in and out while eating a burrito and taking lots of pictures.

Views – now you see them…
…Now you don’t.


Then it was time to start the traverse. The higher elevations of Icicle Ridge are still mostly covered in snow with no visible trail. The snow was firm early in the day, but softened up considerably in the sun. My trekking poles were helpful. I didn’t carry, nor did I need, traction devices, snowshoes, or an ice ax.

Looking back at the Lookout Site from Icicle Ridge
Cool pic of the old Lookout (the structure is no longer there). Photo courtesy of willhiteweb.com

For a mile or so, I followed a single set of bootprints along the ridgeline, but eventually they disappeared. I also found some big cat tracks that seemed to know the way as well.

Kitty track
Unsurprisingly, this cat had a pretty good idea of how to navigate the ridge

Eventually the trail disappeared completely. No boot prints, no paw prints, nothing but snow with occasional patches of bare ground.  At this point the going got pretty slow. The snow had begun to soften and I was postholing more frequently. In addition, I could hear  water running under the snow in places, so I spent a fair amount of time probing around with my trekking poles to make sure I was on relatively solid ground. And then of course I also stopped occasionally to check my map/GPS, since the route doesn’t always stick to the top of the ridge. Despite my turtle pace, it was FUN! I love the puzzle of route-finding. It didn’t hurt that scenery was amazing.

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The Enchantments – unsure of individual peaks, maybe someone can help?
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Would also love to label these guys…


After a few miles of route-finding (maybe 3-5 miles? I should’ve made a note) I regained the trail. From there it was switchback-city all the way down to my car parked at the Icicle Ridge trailhead.

It was a sunny Monday, but I only saw one other person on the trail, and that was within 1 mile of the Icicle Ridge trailhead at the end of the day. Considering how busy this area can get, I was thrilled to have all of Icicle Ridge to myself. In contrast, there were at least a dozen cars parked at the Snow Lake trailhead, as well as cars on the road to the Stuart Lake trailhead both times I passed by. It was nice to be away from those crowds.

The bike ride up the canyon was ~8 miles and 1000 ft of elev gain. The run/hike was ~16 miles and 5500 ft of elev gain. This was the first longer day I’ve had in awhile, and my legs were feeling it. Can’t wait for more!

Wenatchee River roaring through Tumwater Canyon on the drive home




2 Replies to “Icicle Ridge Traverse”

  1. The peaks in 6141 are: Dragontail and Colchuck left and right of the Colchuck Glacier on the left, then (l to r) Argonaut, Sherpa, and Stuart.

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