Washington Pass - Rock Climbing

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Washington Pass is the largest collection of easily accessible alpine rock climbs in the country.

Written by

Joseph Anderson


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

84.0 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

The Easiest routes require at least some mountain sense which includes but is not limited to quickly changing and inclement weather as well as complex route finding. The most difficult routes are expert level although even the longest approaches are still very moderate for the alpine experience.

Time To Complete

0 hours


Summer and Fall

June through October are the absolute best. The highway typically does not open until mid to late May and Closes sometime in November.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


$5 parking pass or NorthWest Forest Pass for Blue Lake Trailhead. No Fee required when Parking on the road.



If you told me that the Department of Transportation and Mother Nature intentionally teemed up to create Washington Pass with us climbers in mind, I'd believe you. How else could these structurally perfect groupings of orange granite in the heart of the North Cascades have such easy access?  It’s because of that as well as the high elevations and climbs on all aspects that this is one of America’s favorite summer climbing venues.

What Makes It Great

To break it down the region is essentially made up of 3 main groups:  The Early Winter Spires, The Kangaroos and Silver Star mountain. 

The Early Winter Spires are at center stage with the easiest access and the highest concentration of developed climbing.  This is where you’ll find the most famous peak, Liberty Bell and it’s incredible East Face as well as the rest of the Early Winter Spires: Concord, Lexington, North Early and South Early Winter Spires.  South Early is the highest summit. 

Although requiring longer approaches The Kangaroo group harbors some great climbs and peaks as well.  Most notable is Kangaroo Temple. 

The largest and highest group of peaks are the Wine Spires which are part of Silver Star Mountain.  Typically these are climbed as an overnight trip since the approach is quite a bit more involved.  Don't miss the famous Rebel Yell hand crack, 5.10a on Chianti Spire!

Who is Going to Love It

For the novice or less ambitious climbers check out the South Arrete, 5.4 on South Early Winter Spire or The Becky Route, 5.6 on Liberty Bell.  Crowds on Weekends.

For visiting climbers on the more advanced side of the spectrum you probably have your sights on the famous grade V Liberty Crack, but there is quite a bit of climbing for the slightly less ambitious.  Check out Direct East Buttress of SEWS grade IV(The two 5.11 crux pitches are bolted sport) or the North West Corner of North Early Winters grade III 5.9+ (Careful.  5.9 off width)

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Washington pass is located on the east side of the North Cascade Mountains about two and half hour drive from Bellingham and three and half hour drive from Seattle. Specifically mile marker 162 on the North Cascades highway route 20.  

Although many of us Bellinghamsters go for frequent day trips, car camping is easy at many of the state run campgrounds along Highway 20.

For the best and most complete guide book to climbing in the area pick up a copy Ian Nicholson’s guidebook Washington Pass Climbing.

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Washington Pass

48.5185, -120.6719

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