The Must-Hike Trails in North Cascades National Park
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One of our favorite National Parks (that’s basically in our backyard since most of our team lives near Seattle) is North Cascades National Park. It’s a gorgeous place filled with mountain peaks, stunning landscapes, and picturesque lakes. Here is the North Cascade hiking you need to do.
Heads up, the highway that runs through the park (Highway 20) closes in the winter so many of these hikes aren’t accessible then! The best time for hiking in the North Cascades is summer.
Maple Pass Loop
Distance: 7.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
While the best hike in the North Cascades is subjective, this is definitely a front runner. This hike is strenuous, and is a loop. Go clockwise to have a steep uphill but gradual downhill, or counterclockwise for an easier time up, but a rougher time on your knees on the way down.
On this gorgeous hike you’ll get to hike by a lake, up above another, and have amazing views of the surrounding mountains. If you go during the fall, you may be there when the larch trees turn a golden yellow. This only lasts for a week or two, and it’s an amazing thing to see! It’s incredibly popular though, so try to go early or during the workweek.
Trail of the Cedars Nature Walk
Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 72 feet
This kid-friendly hike features a beautiful blue river, huge trees, and great spots for birdwatching. It’s a great hike for beginners, families with young kids, or people who just want to stretch their legs on their North Cascades adventure.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,781 feet
Hike through alpine meadows contrasted by the nearby mountains. Summer hikes bring beautiful wildflowers, in the fall, you’ll find mountain blueberries. Round a corner on this hike and see Sahale mountain, its glacier, and meltwater rivers heading down to Doubtful Lake.
Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,050 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
You’ll hike to a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains before you reach Blue Lake. Nestled under the peaks, this lake is a fantastic place to picnic. Take the side trail above the lake for your best views and marvel at the beauty around you.
This is another popular hike, so try to get there early in the morning or later in the afternoon. It’s also a great spot to see the larch trees change colors in the fall!
Gorge Creek Falls
Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 39 feet
Take your kids on this beautiful walk that’ll give you views of Gorge Lake and a waterfall. This is a great hike for young kids, and there are educational plaques for you to read along the way. Plus, it’s short enough that you can add it on to some of the other hikes on this list!
Park Butte Lookout
Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,020 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
This stunning hike to a historic fire lookout will give you unobstructed panoramic views of Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and the rest of the North Cascades. With waterfalls, alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, and stunning views, this will be a memorable hike.
Built in 1932, the fire lookout is maintained by volunteer effort. It’s no longer used to search for fires, but it’s a great spot to hike to and appreciate the views around you!
Distance: 7.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
This hike takes you to gorgeous views of Ross Lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s a stunner and a must-do, but try to go early in the morning, later in the afternoon, or on a weekday since it can be fairly crowded!
Diablo Lake, which is actually a reservoir, was created by Diablo Dam, which was built in 1930. When it was built, it was the highest dam in the world. The beautiful, opaque turquoise lake is that color due to rock flour, or glacial silt. The small particles are suspended in the water and change the way that the light reflects off of the lake. The lake is bluer earlier in the year, and greener in late summer, so depending on when you visit, you may see the lake a different color!
Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 635 feet
This easy trail rewards you with fantastic views of the turquoise Diablo Lake. You start hiking through a campground, across a river, through a marsh, and into the forest. Pay attention because you’ll notice the forest change as you gain elevation. It’s a great hike for kids, or to show visiting relatives, or just to stretch your legs—plus, the payoff at the end is amazing!
These are just some of our favorite North Cascades National Park hikes, but there are tons more. If you want to explore the area, but don’t want to plan, count on our local destination experts to plan a personalized trip for you complete with accommodations. We hope you have a great time getting outside, and make lots of fun memories on your adventures!