Diablo Lake Trail

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
2-2.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
7.1 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
244 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
9.7
Physical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Diablo Lake Trail in North Cascades National Park

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.

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Route Description for Diablo Lake Trail

One-way or round-trip, the Diablo Lake Trail offers a nice hike above the shores of Lake Diablo. From June to October, Seattle City Light provides ferry service on the lake, allowing for a one-way hike and scenic boat ride back. During the rest of the year, the Diablo Lake Hike can be hiked out-and-back, turning around at either the Ross Dam overlook or the suspension bridge. We suggest hiking out during the summer months for the full ferry experience.

Begin the Diablo Lake Trail from the North Cascades Institute parking lot. Restrooms and information are available at the Institute’s Environmental Learning Center. If you plan to take the ferry, it’s always a good idea to check in here and make sure that it’s running. Setting out from the signed trailhead, enter the forest for a leisurely 0.5 mi of hiking. At 0.3 mi continue straight at a junction, then cross Deer Creek and begin climbing.

Diablo Lake Trail tickles the toes of giant Sourdough Mountain. Continue to an unsigned overlook at 1.8 mi, where Colonial Peak and Pyramid Peak are visible from a makeshift bench. Power lines buzz overhead - a reminder that the Diablo, Gorge, and Ross dams have generated hydroelectricity here for decades. Lake Diablo itself is a reservoir created by these dams - part of the greater Skagit River.

Follow the trail as it climbs to its high point of 2,000 ft at 2.5 mi. In another 1.0 mi, reach a signed overlook of Ross Dam. This is a good turnaround point for roundtrip hikers. If you plan to take the ferry back or would like to see the suspension bridge, follow the switchbacks down to the bridge at 4.0 mi. After crossing the bridge, follow the road south - through a tunnel and past a restroom, turning right at the road junction at 4.3 mi - to the Diablo Ferry dock. The ferry only comes twice daily during the summer, so be sure to arrive on time (9am and 3:30pm). Fares are $10 per person. Enjoy the ride back!

Hiking Trail Highlights

Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park

Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake is a gorgeous reservoir in the Cascade mountains of northern Washington. It is a man-made lake, created by the Diablo hydroelectric dam in the Skagit River, but its remote location and stunning natural surroundings prevent the area from feeling artificial. The lake itself is a lovely turquoise color, thanks to the nearby glaciers, and against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the effect is jaw-dropping.

For more ways to enjoy Diablo Lake drive along the North Cascades Highway and stop at the Diablo Lake Overlook. There are three small areas for camping on Diablo Lake, all of which are boat-in only. More camping is available nearby in North Cascades National Park. Both the Colonial Creek campground and the Gorge Lake campground are waterfront campgrounds that are an easy distance from Diablo Lake and can be accessed by car from the North Cascades Highway.

Want to find more amazing hikes in North Cascades National Park? Check out the Maple Pass Loop or the Cascade Pass trail.

Insider Hints for Diablo Lake Trail

  • Alternatively, you can catch the ferry on the Diablo (west) side, taking it to the Ross (east) side and hiking back. The ferry departs from the west side at 8:30am and 3pm.
  • This scenic trail is perfect to bring someone with you on a hiking date.

Getting to the Diablo Lake Trail Trailhead

From Newhalem, drive east on the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) for 7.0 mi. Turn left onto Diablo Dam Road. Cross the dam, and in a little more than a 1.0 mi you will arrive at the trailhead parking area.

Route Information

  • When to do

    June - October (one-way with ferry return) or Year-round (Out and Back)

  • Backcountry Campsites

    No

  • Toilets

    Yes, at North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    One Way

Diablo Lake Trail Elevation Graph

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