The Northgate trailhead is now OPEN and one can drive all the way to the trailhead.
The Northgate trailhead sits at an even 7,000 feet. Wilderness Permits, Summit Passes and Human Waste Pack-out bags are availabe for self issue. Packout bags are in the restroom. Military Pass Road off of Highway 97 is the easiest way to get to Northgate. Expect 8.5 miles of rough dirt road to the trailhead. Four-wheel drive is usually not necessary, though a mid to high clearance vehicle is recommended.
This trailhead is one of two access points to the Hotlum Glacier. Brewer Creek TH is the other option. It is also the start for the Hotlum/Bolam ridge route, Bolam Glacier, Whitney Glacier and even potentially Shastina (though not recommended). The established trail will take you to about 9,800 feet, also the standard high camp for the Hotlum/Bolam ridge route. From there snow, glaciers and steep terrain will ensue and day hikers without proper equipment are advised to make that their high point.
At the 9,800 foot high camp, once the snow melts water is usually availabe from a small stream, though should be treated.
This is a beautiful side of the mountain with relatively little use. For climbers or hikers, enjoy the first few miles switchbacking through the forest of large Red Firs. You'll begin to gain the krummholz trees and soon step into the alpine. A great view of the Hot/Bol route will been seen as you round the bend and find the trail steepening up to the high camp.