Located in the North Cascades near Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker, Ruth Mountain is what remains of an ancient volcano. From fire to ice, Ruth Mountain now has the allure of a small, accessible glacier on its northern slope.
What Makes It Great
Reach the Hannegan Pass Trail off Mt. Baker Highway. Around the 50-mile marker east of Bellingham, you'll find Hannegan Road, and the trailhead is about four miles from there. Hike four miles through Ruth Creek Valley and then scale 1900 feet in elevation until you reach Hannegan Pass. The trail forks; keep right. You'll see Mt. Sefrit above the valley, and Ruth Mountain to the southeast. You'll descend through a meadow and pass a pond before ascending. The views are spectacular.
Hiking, climbing, and camping around Ruth Mountain requires quite a bit of skill and experience. There's snow year round, you'll need crampons, an ice axe, and some people even use rope. Hannegan Pass is known for bear encounters, so keep an eye out and let them know you're there. If you're camping, you might want to have a bear canister for your food and fires are prohibited in most areas. There are creeks and streams (and glacial melt) for water, and you'll find good camping spots around the pass.
If you camp on the Forest Service side, you don't need a permit for camping. There is a designated camp ground 3.5 miles up the trail 1/2 mile from the Pass. It makes a nice spot to drop off heavy gear, do your climb without the added weight, then come back and spend the night.
If you're camping on the park side, you'll have to get a permit from the Forest Service Center Ranger Station (open 8-4:30 daily) at milepost 34 in Glacier. There you can get a Northwest Forest Pass for parking at the trailhead, and the rangers will loan you a bear canister as well.
This is avalanche territory, so be careful during spring and winter.
Bear hunting season starts August 1, so you also have to be aware that there could be bear hunters out there during that time of year. Wear bright colors, no black.
Dogs are allowed on the Forest Service side, but not on the National Park (if you plan to summit, you should not have a dog with you).
Before Hannegan Pass is the Forest side, and at the pass you're crossing the boundary and entering the National Park. That trail has some intense bugs in the summer season. Wear long pants to shield from biting flies and mosquitoes and dress appropriately--bug spray doesn't work on the flies (gloves, hat, long sleeves, hat, etc.). When you stop, they are on you, so if you go prepared, it will be much more enjoyable and you can focus on the gorgeous scenery.
It takes approximately five hours from the road to summit for an experienced climber.
Remember to bring an ice axe, crampons, rope, and standard glacial travel kit.
Who is Going to Love It
While Ruth Mountain is mostly a hike, you’ll want to rope up to cross the glacier to its summit. This makes it a great objective for fledgling and intermediate mountaineers.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
As you approach the Mount Baker Ski Resort, turn left onto the dirt NF Road 32. This will take you to the Hannegan Campground and trailhead, where you can park and begin the hike.