Rain is beating against the plants outside our window and I have never been so grateful. Unlike previous years, where rain meant the end of backpacking season and the slow countdown to next summer, this year rain means salvation. With an extreme fire year and many beloved places currently burning, rain is a welcome change. There is hope that this rain will slow the Norse Peak fire, the location of one of my earliest and one of my favorite backpacking trips: Big Crow Basin.
I originally completed this trail in late September 2014, when fall colors were beginning to show and elks bugled non-stop through the night. Unfortunately, this area is in the Norse Peak Wilderness, an area heavily impacted by wildfires this year. In fact, the entirety of this route is currently on fire. I am heartbroken to see that the wilderness as I knew it is gone and looking forward to seeing nature rebuild. We had hoped to repeat this hike this fall, but instead, I will have to celebrate our trip from several years ago.
Big Crow basin has a special place in my heart; as it was one of my first backpacking trips it was a huge learning experience, and the Copper Ridge Loop Trail was the first trail in years to come close to Big Crow in terms of sheer wildness. It came to define the wilderness in the fall for me, and nothing since has quite stacked up for Autumnal features. This route follows the trip in Craig Romano’s Backpacking Washington Book. It consisted of a nice loop through Big Crow Basin and the second day on the PCT with awesome views of Rainier.
This route follows the trip outlined in Craig Romano’s Backpacking Washington: Overnight and Multi-Day Routes. It is a stunning loop through Big Crow Basin and the second day is on the PCT with awesome views of Rainier. Hopefully someday, y the trail will return, we will shiver in tents as the first Autumn chill crawls through the valley and hear the unique lullaby of elk searching for love. Until then, I thought I would share some pictures of our backpacking trip a few years ago as an archive trip report.
8.2 miles, ~2400′ elevation gain
The trail begins on dusty switchbacks, with views of the forest and highway. Not the most scenic start to a backpacking trip, this section is boring and slightly miserable. In fact, the memory of these dusty switchbacks is the main reason I haven’t returned to this area. After about 4 miles of switchback after switchback, the trail opened to a glorious valley. Mt. Rainier poked through the clouds and there was nothing but wilderness as far as the eye could see. We took a few moments to celebrate escaping the dusty, oppressive switchbacks and into an area more beautiful than we could have imagined.