Blue Lake Trail
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.
To get to the Blue Lake Trailhead, from Newhalem, drive 42.0mi east on Highway 20. The signed trailhead is on the right (milepost 161). Northwest Forest Pass is required.
|When to do|
Summer - Fall
Out and back
Blue Lake Trail
Blue Lake Trail Description
Hiking the Blue Lake Trail is a North Cascades favorite. We love it because of the spectacular scenery and ease of access. Located right off Highway 20 (no forest road required), the trailhead is consistently busy during weekends in the summer and fall.
Set out on the Blue Lake trail as it climbs gently through the forest. You’ll be near enough to the highway for this first stretch to hear cars cruising by. But the further you go, the noise dissipates, and the scenery improves. At 0.9mi, the trail pops out of the woods and into an open meadow. During early summer, this meadow is alive with wildflowers, from heather to lupin and asters. In the fall, golden larches line the trail.
As the trail winds through fragrant wildflower fields, the Liberty Bell Mountain Group comes into view. The most massive of these spires are Liberty Bell (7720ft) and South Early Winters (7907ft). Peering up at these massifs from below, it’s hard to believe that climbers attempt to scale them – but they absolutely do. You’re likely to pass a few climbers along the trail. At 1.7mi the climbers path branches off Blue Lake Trail to the left, marked by a rock cairn. Continue straight for the lake.
As you hike, views open up to the west of Whistler Mountain and Cutthroat Peak across Highway 20. Reach Blue Lake after hiking 2.2mi, where you can choose to hike around the east or west lakeshore. These trails are out-and-back paths – do not attempt to loop around Blue Lake’s steep southern end. Head west (right) to cross a sturdy log bridge over a stream and pass the remains of an old cabin. Just ahead, a large rocky area makes for the perfect picnic spot next to Blue Lake.
It’s possible to continue hiking along this trail to the south end of the lake, where wildlife sightings are common. Watch for mountain goats on the high talus slopes, and listen for pika calling out. Always be sure to keep your distance from them, and respect all wildlife on the trail.
Return by hiking back the way you came.
Blue Lake in North Cascades
Sitting just two miles from the highway is a tiny slice of heaven, Blue Lake. The glistening, azure waters sit surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, forest, and colourful wildflower meadows. This hidden gem is easily accessible with only 1050ft of elevation gain. During the height of summer, take a plunge into the stunning waters to cool off and enjoy the scenery.
Liberty Bell Mountain
From the Blue Lake Trail, prepare to take in the best views of local favourite, Liberty Bell Mountain. You’ll spot its big, steep climbing walls and likely a climber or two testing their courage. Stop and take in the jagged, rough peaks or even snap a picture or two of this monolith beast.
Hiking to Blue Lake in Autumn is stunning with the golden larches.
Stop at nearby Washington Pass Overlook for more Liberty Bell views and a nice picnic area.
No backcountry camping is allowed. The nearest trail open to backcountry camping is the PCT North from Rainy Pass.
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