Discover 13 North Cascades National Park Trails That Entice You Into Nature's Embrace
Get ready to swap city noise for the symphony of nature on the trails of North Cascades National Park. This is where the wild things roam and the mountains beckon you to explore deeper.
We’re diving into the park’s 13 best trails that promise more than just a walk—they’re a full sensory immersion into the wild.
With every step, you’ll encounter vistas that demand your camera’s attention, geological wonders that puzzle and amaze, and the chance to cross paths with the park’s furry locals.
Whether you crave the adrenaline of a steep climb or the zen of a peaceful valley stroll, we’ve scouted out the perfect trail for every type of adventurer. Ready to lace up your boots and let nature’s wonders do the talking? Let’s go!
Lady of the Lake Trail
The Lady of the Lake Trail is one of the must-see trails in the North Cascades National Park. The trailhead is located near the picnic area on the north side of Ross Lake. The trail is a moderate 5.4 mile hike with beautiful views of Ross Lake and Mount Kerr.
There are some steep sections on the trail, but overall it is a relatively easy hike. The Lady of the Lake Trail is a great option for those looking for a moderate day hike with stunning views.
Sulphur Mountain Trail
The Sulphur Mountain Trail is one of the most popular trails in the North Cascades National Park. The trailhead is located near the town of Newhalem, and the trail itself is about 6 miles long.
The trail takes you to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where you will have stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along the way, you will also cross a few bridges and pass by some waterfalls.
The Sulphur Mountain Trail is a great option for hikers of all levels, and it is definitely a must-see when visiting the North Cascades National Park.
Hidden Lake Lookout Trail
The 1.6-mile Hidden Lake Lookout Trail is a popular day hike that takes you to an incredible lookout point over Hidden Lake. The trailhead is located just off the North Cascades Highway, and the trail is well-marked and easy to follow.
The views from the lookout point are simply stunning, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the North Cascades.
Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail
Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail are two must-see trails in the North Cascades National Park. Cascade Pass is a stunning trail that takes you through old-growth forests, across alpine meadows, and up to cascading waterfalls.
The Sahale Arm Trail is a beautiful trail that leads you to an alpine lake with views of the surrounding mountains. This is a 12.1-mile out-and-back trail near Marblemount, Washington.
Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail: This trail offers incredible views of the North Cascades National Park, as well as a challenging hike for avid hikers. The Cascade Pass trailhead is located at the end of State Route 20, and the Sahale Arm Trailhead is located at the end of Cascade River Road. The Cascade Pass Trail is 5.4 miles long and the Sahale Arm Trail is 7 miles long. hikers can access both trails from either trailhead.
The Cascade Pass trail begins in an old growth forest and quickly gains elevation, offering views of Doubtful Lake after about 1 mile of hiking. The trail then switchbacks up to Cascade Pass, which sits at an elevation of 5379 feet. From here, hikers have stunning views of glacier-capped peaks, as well as several options for continuing their hike.
The Sahale Arm Trail branches off to the left just before reaching the pass, and takes hikers up to Sahale Glacier Camp at 7600 feet above sea level. This is a popular destination for climbers attempting to summit nearby peaks such as Mount Rainier or Mount Baker.
For those looking for a shorter hike with less elevation gain, the Cascade Pass trail also continues straight ahead past the pass, descending into a valley known as MacBook Pro Meadow. This section of the trail offers great wildflower viewing in late summer months before ending at Stehekin Valley Road after 5.4 miles.
The Thunder Knob Trail
The Thunder Knob Trail, 3.4-mile out-and-back trail, is a scenic trail in North Cascades National Park. The trailhead is located just off of Highway 20, about 3 miles east of Marblemount. From the trailhead, the trail winds its way up through a mixed forest of Douglas fir and hemlock, with views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks.
After about 1.5 miles, the trail opens up into a sub-alpine meadow with wildflowers in season. The trail then climbs steeply for another mile to the summit of Thunder Knob, where there are 360-degree views of the North Cascades.
The Thunder Knob Trail is a moderate hike, with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet. The trail can be accessed year-round, although in the winter months, the snow and ice may make it difficult to reach the top. The trail is also popular among experienced backcountry skiers and snowshoers. Due to its popularity, hikers should be mindful of others during busy times and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Camping is not allowed along the Thunder Knob Trail, but backpackers may take advantage of the nearby Colonial Creek North Campground. There are no water sources along the trail, so hikers should bring enough for their entire hike before starting out. Although dogs are allowed on the trail, they must remain on a leash and under direct control at all times.
Desolation Peak Trail
As the trail begins, it offers lakeside views. You will gain most of your 4,400 feet (1,341 meters) elevation gain by turning east after two miles (3.2 kilometers). Before leaving the lake, fill up with water and enjoy the cool forest.
Observe the views of Hozomeen Mountain to the north, Picket Range and Ross Lake to the west, Jack Mountain to the south, and Skagit Peak to the east. The forest tapers off to exposed subalpine vegetation.
The Desolation Peak Trail leads hikers from low elevation forests, to stunning subalpine meadows. Discover a variety of flora and fauna, from the dryeast-side forests that thrive on this west slope. Look for Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pine as well as wildlife like deer, bears, cougars, grouse and marmots! Be sure to keep an eye out for charred remains from the 1926 fire or any other scars that could be a result of fires creating the meadows – both plants and animals find refuge in these open spaces. This mountain is full of captivating diversity.
Lookouts serve as a place of contrast between seclusion and the strong effects of nature. Weather changes can be dramatic in such locations and people who work in the towers often have existing solitary tendencies or pick up on them quickly.
In 1956, Jack Kerouac spent some time as a lookout here, basing his book Desolation Angels on that experience. He famously referred to Hozomeen Mountain’s twin peaks as “the void”.
Chain Lakes Loop
The trailhead is located just north of Marblemount, and the loop takes hikers through some of the most stunning scenery in the park. Along the way, hikers will enjoy views of Mt. Baker, Cascade Lake, and many other beautiful lakes and mountains. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, making it a great option for both experienced hikers and those new to hiking.
It is possible to access Chain Lakes Loop from three parking lots, the most popular of which are Heather Meadows Visitor Center and Artist Point. The trail can be hiked in either direction, so hikers have many options before they begin. We recommend starting at Heather Meadows Visitor Center and hiking the trail clockwise.
Then you get onto the Wild Goose Trail is 0.2 km east of Heather Meadows Visitor Center. Head south along the trail, climbing the steep steps, to enjoy views of Mount Baker Highway, Bagley Lakes, and Mount Shuksan.
In 1.3 km, the trail crosses the highway before entering the Artist Point parking lot. Cross the parking area and pick up the trail again at the northwest corner.
From Artist Point, the Chain Lakes Loop trail winds west for 1.6 km. Turn around for unobstructed views of Mount Shuksan. The trail traverses a talus slope and is completely exposed to the elements. Mount Baker gets closer and closer as you proceed.
At 3.4 km, you’ll turn right at the signed intersection with the Ptarmigan Ridge trail. Table Mountain provides a scenic backdrop as you make your ascent over the Chain Lakes Loop trail.
Mount Baker is visible in the southwest, providing an amazing view of the area. At 4.5 km, you’ll reach Mazama Lake – the first of many Chain Lakes. Don’t forget to check out Iceberg Lake (named for its famous floating ice chunks), then Hayes Lake at 5.5 km.
There are extra side trails that lead down to the lake’s shores, and it’s allowed to camp out in designated areas for those looking for a backcountry experience.
The trail climbs about 183 meters from Hayes Lake to Herman’s Saddle, and reaches 1,646 meters. From the top, you can see Mount Baker over Iceberg Lake to the southwest. Bagley Lakes shimmer far below Mount Shuksan, which rises high to the east.
Cross an old stone bridge and climb the steps back to Heather Meadows Visitor Center after descending 335 meters to Bagley Lakes
Fourth of July Pass trail
The Fourth of July Pass is one of the most popular trails in the North Cascades National Park. The trailhead is located just off Highway 20, about 10 miles east of Marblemount.
The trail climbs steadily for about 3 miles before leveling off and then descending into a stunning valley with meadows full of wildflowers. From there, it’s an easy hike to camping spots near beautiful Rainbow Lake.
The roundtrip distance is 10 miles (16.1 km) and the elevation gain is 2,300 feet (700 meters).
The trail is accessible from late June to September, and snow can be encountered up until July. Hikers should plan for enough daylight and wear layers of clothing, as weather conditions can change quickly in the North Cascades. Additionally, hikers should take precautions against bears and other wildlife in the area.
Cutthroat Pass Summit Hike
The Cutthroat Pass hike is said to be one of the most scenic stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State. This moderate, 16.4 km hike offers outstanding mountain views from the 2,073 m Cutthroat Pass.
The Cutthroat Pass Summit Hike is one of the must-see trails in the North Cascades National Park. The hike is a moderate to strenuous 7.2 miles round trip and starts from the Rainy Pass trailhead. The first 3 miles of the hike are relatively easy as you gain about 1,000 feet in elevation.
The last 4 miles are more difficult, gaining an additional 2,000 feet. The trail takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the North Cascades, including subalpine meadows and old growth forests.
At the summit, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, and the North Cascades mountain range.
The Copper Ridge trail
The Copper Ridge trail, in North Cascades National Park, offers stunning views of the valley below and the mountains beyond, and is a great way to experience the beauty of the park.
The trail to Copper Ridge, starting at Boundary Camp, is a steep climb through seven miles (11 km) of subalpine meadows, offering magnificent views of the North Cascades.
Three designated camping sites – Silesia, Egg Lake and Copper Lake – are scattered along the ridge and equipped with composting toilets and food storage lockers.
The trail eventually descends 2400 feet in five miles (730 m in 8 km) down to the Chilliwack River valley, and bathers must ford across its braided channels to reach Indian Creek camp close by. Be vigilant however that you don’t lose track of the trail!
The Easy Pass Trail
Start your journey at the trailhead, located about 300 yards (270 m) away. Venture into the western hemlock and Pacific silver fir forest for two miles (3 km), eventually entering avalanche paths on Ragged Ridge.
Search for glacier lilies blooming in the spring snow as you ascend to a high pass. Cross Easy Pass Creek several times as you traverse steep rock slopes and avalanche meadows.
Keep your eyes open and ears perked for pika and hoary marmots as you may come across snow fields that can conceal your path. It may be wise to bring an ice axe when navigating this terrain during the early summer months.
Granite Creek Valley and drier mountains to the east are separated from glacier-mantled peaks ringing Fisher Creek drainage to the west by Easy Pass. There are scattered clumps of subalpine larch, subalpine firs, mountain hemlocks, and whitebark pines along the ridge.
Only the northern edges of the United States and the eastern ridges of the North Cascades are home to the larch, a deciduous conifer that turns gold before losing its needles in the fall.
In Fisher Basin, the trail is steep and scenic. Mt. Logan looms in the distance. Lush meadows bloom in pinks, reds, purples, whites, and yellows. Deer and smaller animals can be seen.
It is common to see black bears eating huckleberries in the meadows. The Fisher name comes from the Fisher brothers who ran a trap line in the early 1900s. One of the last grizzly bears in the North Cascades was shot here just before the National Park Act was established in 1968.
At Fisher Camp, on the edge of the meadows, two miles (3 km) beyond the pass, the trail gently descends as it enters a mature silver fir forest and follows Fisher Creek Valley. Creekside Cosho Camp lies deep in this life zone of martins, owls and their prey such as flying squirrels, voles and deer mice.
As you travel further down valley, the forest transitions to western redcedar, western hemlock and cottonwood near stream flats.
A mile from Junction Camp is Rock Cabin – an old trapper’s cabin semi-hidden off the trail and stabilized by National Park Service. This unique cabin stands out as a reminder of human history in this remote part of the world.
From Junction Camp, you have good views of Thunder Creek Valley, including Boston Glacier. The campsite is located near Fisher Creek on a ridge overlooking Thunder Creek Valley.
From Junction, you have several options: retrace your steps to the Easy Pass trailhead; hike down Thunder Creek Trail to Colonial Creek and State Route 20; or hike 17 miles (27 km) up and over Park Creek Pass into the Stehekin Valley.
Maple Pass loop
This 7.2-mile loop starts at the trailhead which is located just off of Highway 20, making it easily accessible, and the views from the trail are simply stunning. From the trail, you’ll get sweeping views of stunted trees and jagged peaks, as well as up-close views of waterfalls and wildflowers.
The trail can be hiked in either direction, but most people prefer to hike it clockwise so that they can enjoy the views from Maple Pass on the way back down. Be sure to take plenty of breaks to soak in the scenery, and keep an eye out for mountain goats and other wildlife that call this area home.
Diablo Lake Trail
In the North Cascades National Park, the Diablo Lake Trail is a must-see. The trailhead is located just off of Highway 20, and the trail is 7.2-mile out-and-back. The views of Diablo Lake and the surrounding mountains are absolutely breathtaking, and make this hike well worth your time.
Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, the Diablo Lake Trail is a great way to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Wildlife on North Cascades Hiking trails
The North Cascades are home to an array of wildlife, including bears, mountain lions, deer, and elk. If you’re hiking in the park, be sure to keep an eye out for these animals!
Some birds that hikers may be lucky enough to spot include the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Pine Grosbeak. This area is also home to a variety of songbirds, including juncos, grosbeaks, flycatchers, hammerheads, and jays.
Marmots, ground squirrels, and other small mammals inhabit the higher elevation trail sections of the North Cascades. Hikers may also spot river otters fishing for salmon or steelhead in streams and rivers.
Hikers should keep their eyes peeled for signs or tracks of larger predators like cougars or gray wolves. While encountering them on the trail is rare due to their elusive nature, having a heightened sense of awareness can help prepare you in the unlikely event that you do come across one.
The North Cascades National Park is a stunning landscape, with more than enough trails to explore its full range of scenery. From challenging hikes up rugged volcanic ridges, to peaceful strolls down along riverside paths, there’s something for everyone in this park.
We hope that this list of 13 must-see trails has helped you plan your own trip into the wilderness and inspired you to go out and experience all that the North Cascades has to offer.