This hike begins at the Phelps Creek Trailhead. Getting there is pretty straightforward, and routable via Google Maps, so I won’t provide detailed directions here. The WTA Hiking Guide (see Resources, below) does provide good directions. Do be aware, however, that for the final 12 miles or so you will be on a dirt road that has a few switch backs and at times is quite rough. Perfectly safe, though I would encourage the use of a high clearance vehicle with AWD (see video in Resources, below).
This is a really splendid hike, the distance not great and elevation not extreme, but the rewards are high. The hike culminates in a wide basin, with Spider Meadow being the pay-off. In the summer it will be filled with wildflowers and surrounded by snow peaked mountains. For this hike, I was visiting in early August, just a bit past peak for the wildflowers, but still quite lovely. Beyond Spider Meadow, you can explore deeper into Phelps Basin or make the climb up to Spider Glacier and on to Spider Gap if you are really adventurous.
Day 1: Phelps Creek Basin to Spider Meadow
Elevation Gain / Loss: +1662/-362
The hike in to Spider Meadow is fairly straight forward. The slight rise is consistent over the length of the miles as you amble along Phelps Creek Trail. You will have periodic breaks with mountain views and will more or less follow Phelps Creek the entire way.
There will be very easy access to water so no need to carry more than required for the short hike to camp. After about 2.5 miles or so you will enter Glacier Peak Wilderness as the trail continues fairly unnotably until about 3.5 miles in where Leroy Creek joins Phelps Creek.
A washout has created the need to re-route the trail at this point and as of this trip there was no signage.
Look for a small rock cairn that marks where you should turn left, else you end up on Leroy Basin Trail (which starts climbing steeply, a dead give-away that’ve you’ve mad an error should you miss the cairn). As you turn left, look across the stream (Leroy Creek) and you should see another small cairn. Once again, head to the left at the cairn and you’ll pick up the trail again.
Your first really good views of the meadow will come around 5.5 miles into your hike. There are toilets nearby and quite a few areas for setting up camp. The meadows are fragile so please follow basic LNT principles and don’t setup camp except in those areas with clearly durable surfaces. As most people will grab the first available spot, this area may be quite full. Press on just a bit farther. I found a good spot at about 6.2 miles in, right next to the creek, somewhat tucked within a stand of trees and not very obvious from the trail.
However, if you continue along just a bit further even, maybe another 1/2 mile, you will start to head up into a wooded area where you will find a couple of small sites and one quite massive site near to the small trail that continues back into Phelps Basin.
Setup camp and then enjoy the spectacular scenery!
Region: Central Cascades
Style: Short Out and Back w/ Basecamp
Special Notes: Dog Friendly, Maintained Trails, Established Camping
Date: 8/7/2020 – 8/9/2020
Map below shows all three days of activity:
Day 1: Phelp’s Creek TR to Spider Meadow, Basecamp (orange track)
6.23 Miles, Elevation: +1662′-362′
Day 2: Day Hike up to Spider Glacier (blue track)
3.71 Miles, Elevation: +2004′ -2005′
Day 3: Spider Meado to Phelp’s Creek TH (red track)
Video Sample of Road Conditions on Phelps Creek Road.
Day 2: Day Hike to Spider Glacier
Elevation Gain / Loss: +2004/-2004
While the short hike in to such a magnificent destination makes this a popular spot for backpackers and day hikers alike, spending an extra night will allow for a full day of romping, well worthwhile if you ask me!
In addition to simply exploring the meadow and Phelps Basin, I highly recommend the trek up at least to Spider Glacier. It is steep, the path narrow, and not recommended if you suffer from vertigo. But that aside, the views are stunning and give you a great opportunity to take in the full expanse of the basin and meadow that you’ve hiked into.
As you ascend, you’ll encounter some wild flowers that you won’t otherwise find in the meadow and you will feel the air get noticeably cooler. Even in the summer, you’ll do well to throw an overshirt into your summit pack to throw on when you get to the top. Take your time as you will be covering about 1500 ft of elevation in just the first 1.3 miles.
As you continue up, at about the 1.5 mile mark you will have leveled out a bit and here you will find some additional camp spots. My maps indicate a privy here, though I didn’t take the time to check it out. There are plenty of places to rest a bit and would be a great place to enjoy breakfast if the weather is supportive.
From here, you can continue on up along the Spider Gap Snowfield Route. It is not terribly steep, but it can still be quite slick. I would highly recommend poles and perhaps microspikes for sure footing. While I did not do it on this trip, at the top of the snow field is Spider Gap and access to another great area for exploring and romping, particularly around Lyman Lake, another popular camp destination.
Once you’ve had your fill, start working your way back down to camp and enjoy a cozy fire to warm yourself back up.
Day 3: Spider Meadow to Phelps Creek Trailhead and Home
Elevation Gain / Loss: +303/-1596
The hike out will be just like the hike in except in reverse. A nice gentle descent the entire way. It goes quickly though, so take your time, enjoy the wild flowers, watch the butterflies for a while, listen for the sounds of marmot, and have fun!