Hikes in North Cascades National Park

Region in Washington State, United States

Famous for its jagged peaks and creaking glaciers, North Cascades National Park is a dream destination for adventurous hikers. This glorious national park is packed with lush forests, gushing waterfalls, pretty lakes and streams and beautiful mountain scenery. Hiking in North Cascades National Park is a bucket list adventure, and one that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Over 400 miles of trails wind their way through the spectacular scenery of the North Cascades National Park, providing plenty of variety for a whole range of backpacking and hiking trips. This is the ideal place to come if you want to get lost, as this national park is famously remote. With just one road traversing the park’s territory, and over 1000 square miles of wilderness to explore, this is the place to escape from the daily grind.

Hiking in North Cascades National Park will take you through lush, dense forests, and along plunging cliffs and ridgelines, offering dramatic views over the snow-capped peaks and shimmering mountain lakes. The park is particularly known for its many glaciers (over 300), which coat the high peaks and croak and groan as they slide, inch by inch, down the mountains.

To help you plan your trip to the North Cascades National Park, we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes across the region, from family favorites to challenging day hikes. It’s time to grab your boots and head for the hills!

Types Of Hiking In North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is the perfect hiking destination, whether you’re looking for adventure, or a relaxing holiday with the whole family. The wilderness of the North Cascades provides many backcountry challenges for experienced hikers, who will find plenty of strenuous trails and challenging routes that rise to jaw-dropping summits. If you’re a keen beginner looking for the next stage in your training, you’ll also find plenty of moderate trails that will stretch your abilities and help you to build your fitness. On the other hand, if you’re travelling with young kids or looking for an easy hike, head for the serene lakes and wildflower meadows that offer remarkable views without too much exertion.

Easy Hikes In North Cascades National Park

Ladder Creek Falls Hike: This short easy hike is a wonderful, easy, post-dinner outing, and is one of the rare hikes in North Cascades National Park that is best undertaken at night! Until midnight every night, the creek and waterfalls are illuminated in beautiful colored lights. Beginning at the Skagit River, this trail is a wonderful opportunity to learn a little more about the local area.

Family Hikes In North Cascades National Park

Blue Lake Hike: Looking for a family-friendly hike with serene views? This trail passes through beautiful wildflower meadows with views of the Liberty Bell Mountain Group, before arriving at the stunning Blue Lake, the perfect spot for a family picnic! Don’t miss the blazing golden larches in the autumn.

Day Hikes In North Cascades National Park

Cutthroat Pass Hike: This gorgeous day hike passes along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, with incredible mountain views from the high Cutthroat Pass. The trail passes through dense forest before ascending steeply in a series of switchbacks and emerging into fabulous alpine terrain. If you’ve got the energy, extend the hike for another mile to reach Granite Pass, where you’ll enjoy yet another wonderful vista.

Challenging Hikes In North Cascades National Park

Easy Pass Hike: Don’t let the name put you off! This stunning hike is a bit of a challenge, and will take you high above the North Cascades National Park, with incredible views over craggy peaks and lush forests. Come in the autumn to see the remarkable contrast between the golden trees, black rocks, and white snow-capped peaks, for an unforgettable hiking experience.

Top Hikes In North Cascades National Park

Maple Pass Loop: The Maple Pass Loop is, quite simply, one of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park. You’ll pass through lush wildflower meadows, climb high onto a craggy ridge, and enjoy fabulous views from the highpoint of the pass. Along the way expect to catch sight of plenty of local wildlife, including marmots, which can often be found sunbathing on the rocks high above the tree line! If you only have time to do one hike in the North Cascades National Park, make it this one.

Washington Pass Overlook Hike: This easy, paved trail is a must for anyone visiting the North Cascades National Park! This is the best place to enjoy a fabulous view over Liberty Bell from the high Washington Pass. If you’re looking for a tantalizing introduction to the North Cascades region, head for the Washington Pass Overlook, where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for future hikes in the national park.

Hidden Lake Trail Hike: The hike to Hidden Lake is a bit of a challenge, but the rewards make it well worth the effort. This beautiful secluded lake is incredibly photogenic, and you’re sure to want to get a photo of the ominously perched lookout point. Along the way, expect stunning views, scented silver fir forests, and masses of summer wildflowers.

Cascade Pass Trail Hike: Looking for a classic hike in North Cascades National Park? The Cascade Pass Trail is a moderate hike that really packs a punch when it comes to remarkable views and lush scenery. You’ll ascend gently through lush forest and open meadows, before arriving at the pass, which boasts breathtaking views across the Stehekin River Valley.

Diablo Lake Trail Hike: This relatively easy trail will take you along a high path above Diablo Lake, before dropping down to the suspension bridge over the water. The route passes just below Sourdough Mountain and offers a beautiful vista, with snow-capped mountains perfectly offset by the turquoise waters of the lake. For a fun family day out, make the hike out and catch a ferry back to the trailhead.

Thunder Creek Trail Hike: This lovely route is a good flexible option for a hike in the North Cascades National Park. The Thunder Creek Trail stretches for over 40km into the backcountry, offering excellent scope for hikes and backpacking trips of different lengths. The route itself is a joy for hiking, passing through old growth forest alongside the beautiful creek.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In North Cascades National Park?

The best time to hike in the North Cascades National Park is between mid-June and mid-September, when the trails will be free of snow, and the weather is at its best. Lower elevation trails may be accessible from April, but the snows tend to linger for much longer on higher ground, meaning that many of the popular hiking routes are inaccessible. Aim for the shoulder season, at the beginning and end of the main hiking season, to avoid the crowds, and take advantage of the beautiful colors in the autumn. Once the snows hit, the park opens up for winter sports, including sledding, snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding, although bear in mind that many roads are closed during the winter due to heavy snow and avalanches.

Other Outdoor Activities In North Cascades National Park

Although hiking is a popular option, there are many other outdoor activities in the North Cascades National Park. From day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips, this is a wonderful place to get out on the trail, and it’s also possible to enjoy some excellent mountain biking routes here too. Go boating on one of the many lakes, or try your hand at rafting or kayaking. This is also a wonderful place to get closer to wildlife in its natural habitat, and local rangers run a variety of animal and bird-watching tours.

How To Plan A Trip To North Cascades National Park

If this has got you excited about your next hiking adventure, why not start planning a trip to North Cascades National Park? We’ve put together all the information you’ll need to get started, from recommendations on where to go and stay, to route guides for all of our favorite hikes. This glorious region is just waiting to be discovered, and we think you’re going to love it just as much as we do!

Frequently-Asked-Questions About North Cascades National Park

How many days in North Cascades National Park?

The length of your stay in the North Cascades National Park depends entirely on how much time you have available – after all, there plenty of things to do here that could keep you occupied for weeks! However, to make the most of your trip, we’d recommend that you stay for at least 3-4 days, allowing you to squeeze in a couple of decent hikes and some time for relaxation in this beautiful natural spot.

Can you drive through North Cascades National Park?

Route 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway, spans the width of Washington State, and passes through the North Cascades National Park. It’s an incredibly scenic route, and a good way to appreciate the park if you haven’t got much time for long hikes.

How far is North Cascades National Park from Seattle?

The North Cascades National Park is 97 miles from Seattle.

How many glaciers are in North Cascades National Park?

North Cascades National Park boasts around 300 glaciers, making it one of the most heavily glaciated places in the United States outside of Alaska.

Are there grizzly bears in North Cascades National Park?

Grizzly bear numbers in the park are currently very low, with fewer than 10 now remaining. The National Park Service is currently engaged in a restoration project that aims to restore a healthy grizzly bear population to the North Cascades National Park.

Guide-book quality info for over 8,000 trails

View Trails on the Map

View Map

Best Hikes in North Cascades National Park

Open details for Cascade Pass Trail

Cascade Pass Trail

Moderate
12.3 km
518 m
3.5-5h

Cascade Pass Trail is one of the classic North Cascades hikes. We love Cascade Pass for a relatively easy climb to subalpine grandeur. Mountains, valleys, glaciers, waterfalls, and more make a hike to Cascade Pass pretty much unbeatable for the effort.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Maple Pass Loop

Maple Pass Loop

Moderate
11.4 km
623 m
3.5-5h

Hiking the Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades is a gem. This is one of the finest trails in the North Cascades, and Maple Pass Loop is a stunner during its short season. Climbing high above alpine lakes, it skirts the North Cascades National Park boundary for views deep into the rugged and remote North Cascades. If you have time for just one North Cascades trail, this is the one.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Diablo Lake Trail

Diablo Lake Trail

Moderate
7.1 km
244 m
2-2.5h

The hike along the Diablo Lake Trail rises 700 ft above Diablo Lake, delivering hikers to a view of Ross Dam before dropping to a suspension bridge over Lake Diablo. During summer, the Diablo Lake Trail can be done as a one-way hike with a ride back to the trailhead via the Diablo Lake Ferry.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Washington Pass Overlook

Washington Pass Overlook

Very Easy
0.4 km
6 m
0.5h

The Washington Pass Overlook hike is a must-do for anybody visiting the North Cascades. This hike takes you along a short, paved path leading to incredible Liberty Bell views from the 1,707 m heights of Washington Pass. This little leg stretch is an excellent way to break up the drive between eastern and western Washington State.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Cutthroat Pass

Cutthroat Pass

Hard
16.9 km
828 m
5.5-7.5h

The Cutthroat Pass hike is said to be one of the most scenic stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State. This moderate, 10.2 mi hike offers outstanding mountain views from the 6,800 ft Cutthroat Pass. We Love it!

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.8
Technical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Blue Lake Trail

Blue Lake Trail

Easy
4.6 mi
1,001 ft
2-3h

The family-friendly Blue Lake trail is another North Cascades gem. The whole family will enjoy a leisurely hike out to the pretty Blue Lake flanked by the dramatic Liberty Bell Mountain spires. Hiking to Blue Lake is especially excellent during fall when the larches turn gold.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.3
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Open details for Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

Hard
13.0 km
914 m
5-7h

The Hidden Lake trail is one of our favorite hikes, offering magnificent views over some classic North Cascades scenery. Expect wildflower-strewn paths, fragrant silver fir forests, a serene alpine lake, and epic mountain views. It’s a challenging hike, but the vista from the Hidden Lake lookout is worth every bit of effort.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.6
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.
Open details for Fourth of July Pass via Thunder Creek

Fourth of July Pass via Thunder Creek

Moderate
15.0 km
760 m
4.5-6.5h

Fourth of July Pass via Thunder Creek is a moderate hike used by both day hikers and backpackers. It’s lightly trafficked and 15.0 km in length, making for a nice, quiet mid-distance trek. Some hikers don’t feel the views from the pass are necessarily worth the effort and some love them, but all love the super-quiet backcountry spots and the chance to get away from the crowds. Come try it for yourself and see.

This trail offers lots of tree coverage, making it a good choice for hot days.

User Ratings
No Reviews
Open details for Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp

Cascade Pass Trail to Cottonwood Camp

Hard
25.6 km
1,423 m
8.5-12h

Cascade Pass is one of the most awe-inspiring spots in North Cascades National Park. With towering peaks framing a saddle of meadow with incredible sightlines, this is one of the best destinations you can reach by foot in the area. It’s a big hike, with this stretch of trail to Cottonwood Camp clocking in at just over 25.0 km with over 1,400 m of elevation gain. This trail is moderately trafficked by both hikers and backpackers and should be at the top of your list in the park.

Come prepared with poles, good boots, and lots of water for this hike.

User Ratings
No Reviews
Open details for Easy Pass

Easy Pass

Hard
12.9 km
935 m
5-7h

We love the hike to Easy Pass. This stunning North Cascade hike has peaks aplenty and rewards hikers at the top of this not-so-easy pass. Gaze across Fisher Basin to Fisher Peak, and check out Mount Logan’s glaciated goods from afar. Hiking to Easy Pass is excellent during fall when the subalpine larches turn golden-yellow. Snow-dusted peaks are icing on the cake.

User Ratings
Overall Rating
9.7
Technical Difficulty
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Physical Difficulty
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more adventure.

Change happens, fees shouldn't

Other Activities in North Cascades National Park

Essential Tools for Any Adventure

Find a hotel in some of the most beautiful locations on earth.

Book your own car to have complete freedom on your next adventure.

Gear-up for your next adventure.

This page may include affiliate links. We may get a small commission for the purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.
We only recommend tools we personally think are great.

Related regions

Change happens, fees shouldn't

Recent Stories

Open details for Planning your trip to North Cascades National Park

Planning your trip to North Cascades National Park

By 10A editors
March 11th, 2018
Detailed Route Guides
Real GPS Coordinates
Reliable Trail Reports
Experienced-Based Travel Tips
GPS App
Extensive Travel Guides