Pacific Northwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Hart's Pass from Slate Peak looking southeast. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Wildflower display along the Pacific Crest Trail at Hart's Pass. Photo by T. Ohlson.
Elephanthead lousewort (Pedicularis goenlandica). Photo by T. Ohlson.
Forest: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
District: Methow Valley Ranger District
Description: Hart’s Pass is accessible by car and is the highest point in the State of Washington that one can drive. The road was built in 1893 into gold and silver mines that once were home to over 1,000 permanent residents. This narrow road hangs along a cliff wall providing magnificent vistas and breath taking canyons. The road ends near timberline, over 6000’ in elevation, and opens up into the heart of the North Cascades. Hart’s Pass road accesses the Pacific Crest Trail and a network of other trails heading into the vast Pasayten Wilderness that boarders Canada 20 miles to the north. This glaciated landscape provides endless wildflower habitats for exploring from the rocky talus and scree slopes to fellfields, and richly diverse alpine meadows.
Viewing Information: Peak wildflower viewing typically occurs during the first three weeks of July, depending on the previous winter’s snow pack and spring weather. The District sponsors a wildflower walk most years on the third Saturday in July, check with the District Visitor Center (509-996-4000) for exact date and time. For those that prefer to explore on their own, a Hart’s Pass wildflower brochure is available describing the alpine habitats, alpine plant ecology, and includes a plant list of the area that is available online (PDF, 110 KB). The species list includes over 220 species and is one of the most popular destinations for naturalists and botanists of all skill levels. This list was compiled from numerous Washington Native Plant Society outings over the years from Hart's Pass and popular day hikes accessed from Hart's Pass. The Watchable Wildflowers of Hart’s Pass brochure is available at the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF Office, at the Methow Valley District Office, and FS Visitor Center in Winthrop Washington.
Directions: There are two ways to get to Hart’s Pass. From eastern Washington, go west on Hwy 153 from Pateros, and follow the Methow River to Winthrop Washington. In Winthrop, continue west on Hwy 20 to the Mazama Junction. Turn off Hwy 20 here and proceed to Mazama. Continue northwest past Mazama and go up Forest Service Road 5400 to Hart’s Pass. The 35 mile journey from Winthop will take nearly an hour as it is a slow-going gravel road from just past Mazama to the pass.
From the Puget Sound area of western Washington, go east on the North Cascades Scenic Highway (Highway 20) from Interstate 5. As you go east from Sedro Wooley you are in for a treat—since Hwy 20 passes through the North Cascades National Park’s glacial studded mountains, Ross Lake, and the town of Marblemount (where the National Park Office is located). Turn off Hwy 20 at the Mazama Jct where the directions are the same as if coming from Winthrop.
Be aware that trailers are not allowed on FS road 5400 to Hart’s Pass and wider vehicles such as motor homes are highly discouraged. Due to the nature of this narrow gravel road, passing oncoming vehicles can be challenging even for sedans. However, the road is maintained for sedans and other low clearance vehicles.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District.
Closest Town: Mazama, Washington.