Hozomeen Camp


Every day Never Closes


Hozomeen Camp is only open during the summer months and access would be difficult if not dangerous at any other time. Located on the far northeastern shore of Ross Lake, on the international border between the U.S. and Canada, there is no easy way to reach Hozomeen, even in the summer. Yet, for those who find their way here, their reward is a fascinating look into the remote wilderness shared by these two countries. Located within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and managed by the National Park Service, Hozomeen provides a broader range of recreational opportunities for visitors than would be permitted in a designated wilderness. Motor boats, leashed pets, and even recreational vehicle camping are allowed here. Additionally, there are boat ramps, docks, campgrounds, picnic areas, access to trailheads in both Canada and the U.S. and ranger-led interpretive programs.

The decision on how to reach Hozomeen will depend on the time, skills, and equipment available to potential visitors. Theoretically the easiest approach is to drive to Hozomeen. This requires however, crossing into Canada, driving east on the Trans Canada Highway (#1) nearly to Hope, British Columbia, taking exit 168, and then driving south 40 miles on the Silver-Skagit Road. The surface of this road soon becomes gravel requiring not only sufficient fuel for slow driving but some consideration for exceptional tire damage due to possibly rough conditions. Despite the length of this approach; interesting parks, campgrounds, trailheads, and natural areas are passed, as well as active logging operations. Upon reaching the international border, a small white monument marker can be seen on the hill slope to the left. Within a few more feet the park’s entrance and ranger cabin are reached.

Hiking to Hozomeen is the simplest approach to describe. Begin at the East Bank/Ruby Creek Trailhead on the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20). Hike north 30 miles; arrive at camp. Sounds simple, but the long hike requires: stream and bridge crossings, treks up, around and over various hills and mountains, and wanderings up and down the deep drainages flowing into Ross Lake. The route traverses through woodland, past open lake shores and into deep dark ancient forests. Sections of the trail and conditions may at times seem dry as a desert or wet as a rainforest. This daunting trip is nevertheless wonderfully memorable for those who complete it.

Boating to Hozomeen from the U.S. is a popular but again not especially easy approach. There are no boat ramps between the highway and Ross Lake so simply getting your boat to the lake is the first challenge. The easiest way is to launch into Diablo Lake, paddle nearly up to the Ross Lake Dam and meet a prearranged vehicle shuttle (from the resort on Ross Lake) to transport your boat up and over the Dam to the shore of Ross Lake. A few hardy souls may opt to hand carry their small boats either down to the Lake from a highway trailhead or do their own portage up and over Ross Dam. Once on the lake, boaters can expect to travel at least 25 water miles to Hozomeen. Highly prone to afternoon winds, slower and paddled boats should carefully plan for landing sites to escape the sometimes challenging, even dangerous conditions that can blow up-lake on a daily basis. Early season boaters face additional challenges. Managed low lake levels in the spring (draw-down) create large mud flats between the lake water and the normal shoreline landing sites. Also, many more obstacles including rocks, shallows and submerged stumps will be encountered. One of these is so notable that it has a name "The Picket Fence." Again, despite the hardships, for those who do this trip, the difficulties are soon forgotten and the memories of the exceptional scenery, fascinating wildlife sightings, and reflections on history are fondly remembered.

Once reaching Hozomeen Camp, visitors are presented with many choices for camping, recreational activities, and wildlife viewing. Nearing the road entrance at the north end of the park, a loop trail straddling both countries leads to the nearest border monument. These stark white obelisks are placed strategically along the border beginning at the saltwater shore of Point Roberts in the west and spanning eastward across nearly half the North American continent. Looking across the lake, the narrow cut-strip marking the border is clearly visible running up and over the nearest mountain.

Within a few feet of entering Hozomeen, the ranger office is located on the left. While rangers are typically out on duties, information on current conditions, wildlife sightings, and camper registration are posted. A short distance into the park, a pleasant campground under large deciduous trees provides for lake side campsites. While the open area provides little in the way of privacy it is often quiet during weekdays and especially during the shoulder seasons. Regardless of others, those who prefer camping next to the lake will want to consider this location.

Down the road, several National Park buildings are passed. These have no public access and are living quarters and shops for the rangers and maintenance workers who are on duty when this remote park is open. Located within one of the older buildings, an endangered species of bats has found an unlikely location for a colony. Causing no problems for the workers, the bats consume an incredible number of mosquitoes during their nightly forays and are viewed with appreciation by those who spend the summers here.

Further south, near the crossing of Hozomeen Creek, a cluster of facilities and recreation possibilities can be found. For camping and picnicking two separate areas, the Lower and Upper Loops provide small more private locations in an old forest of ancient trees and dense canopy. A spur road drops down to lake level and provides access to picnic and restroom facilities, and a boat launch area. The nearby centrally located amphitheater is used by rangers to present programs on the wildlife, plants, and cultural history of the North Cascades and Hozomeen area. South of the last campgrounds, the road is gated to limit access to park maintenance areas for authorized personnel only. The road soon ends at a steep talus slope below rough terrain effectively ending any further land access anyway.

While the scenic beauty from the open lakeshore is spectacular, for those seeking deeper connections into the wilderness and more opportunities for wildlife viewing, the Hozomeen Lake Trailhead is located at the top of the Upper Campground Loop next to an historic ranger cabin. This is the only direct land connection with the rest of the park and the U.S. but more trail hiking can be found north of the park. The Skagit Valley Provincial Park is located only a short walk away along the entrance road. The Province of British Columbia maintains similar facilities for camping and boating on their side of the border as well as connections to interesting trails in the natural area of Chittenden Meadows and even further beyond to Manning Park and the Trans Canada Trail.

While today Hozomeen is the focus of recreation and wildlife interest it has a long and important place in cultural history. For millennia this valley, then a river valley not an artificial lake, was known as an important gathering and meeting place for trading and communication. Members of tribes that were from very different environments would meet here to exchange items that were rare to them: vermillion paint from the interior, shells from the coast, fur, hides, bone and teeth from animals that some would never know. The name Hozomeen though seemingly common to different dialects seems to have different meanings, possibly a reflection of the different ways that this area was viewed by the tribes. For some, Hozomeen referred to sharp stone, probably not the peaks themselves but hard chert used for making tools and weapons. In other dialects the meaning of Hozomeen may be interpreted to mean the rocky depression between high points. A view of the double peaks of Hozomeen Mt which can be seen directly behind and above the camp easily illustrates this. The name may also refer to the wider topography. The broad relatively flat Skagit River Valley was framed on either side by long parallel ridges of glaciated peaks. Along the valley bottom, vast meadows, elk herds, wolf and grizzly territory once existed before the construction of Ross Lake Dam flooded the valley.

Hozomeen may not be the easiest of locations to access but for those who make the effort, a fascinating journey into a vast international wilderness will be their reward. Looking back on a trip to Hozomeen, it may not be just the destination but also the journey that is long and fondly remembered.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 4/30/2010


Open and accessible only during summer months, Hozomeen Camp may be reached by hike, boat, or car. The remote and unusual location of Hozomeen makes access an interesting, possibly difficult adventure. See article for details. Check for current regulations regarding border crossings between Canada and the U.S. In the past, hikers entering Canada via Hozomeen were required to check in at the nearest RCMP station (Hope, BC is the closest). For those driving into Hozomeen and back out, there were formerly no special requirements. Federal policies for both countries may change at any time.


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