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Stephen Mather Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
From atop a snowy mountaintop, the view of the icy lake below is clear.  The valley stretches back into a vista of blue, frozen mountains.
Library image #3501: Looking across Hidden Lake from Hidden Lake Peaks, to Forbidden Peak (left) and Boston Peak (right).


The United States Congress designated the Stephen Mather Wilderness (map) in 1988 and it now has a total of 638,173 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Washington and is managed by the National Park Service. The Stephen Mather Wilderness is bordered by the Pasayten Wilderness to the northeast, the Mount Baker Wilderness to the northwest, the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness to the west, the Glacier Peak Wilderness to the southwest, and the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness to the southeast.


If you're looking for sheer wildness and first-rate alpine climbing, this area may be your best choice in the Lower 48. The North Cascades National Park "Complex" consists of three units: 505,000-acre North Cascades National Park, which boasts 504,614 acres of designated Wilderness; 117,600-acre Ross Lake National Recreation Area, a slim piece of land just east of the park that has 74,000 acres of designated Wilderness; and 62,000-acre Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, at the southeast corner of the park, with 56,000 acres of designated Wilderness.

These three components are combined into Stephen Mather Wilderness, a huge and tremendously rugged piece of earth with jagged glaciated peaks above narrow stream drainages and densely forested U-shaped valleys. The snowfall, which may exceed your imagination in the virtually inaccessible heights, stays on the ground for a long, long time.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses the southeastern corner of the park for about 13 miles, but most of the trails tend to be long and crudely rambling. Maps show about 390 miles of pathways, but if trail access determines what you see, you'll see little of the Wilderness. Reaching huge sections of the area can entail multiday hikes, often combined with mountaineering, through remote, trailless territory. A Wilderness experience of the highest order awaits the prepared.

Planning to Visit the Stephen Mather Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Stephen Mather Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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