Hidden Lake Trail
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.
To get to the Hidden Lake trailhead, drive the Cascade River Road from Marblemount for 9.8mi to the junction with FS 1540, signed for Hidden Lake Trail. Drive the steep, rocky road 4.5mi to the trailhead at the end of the road. No pass required.
|When to do|
July to October
Yes, at Hidden Lake and lookout
Out and back
Hidden Lake Trail
Hidden Lake Hike Description
The Hidden Lake trail, arguably one of the best trails in North Cascades, has become an explosively popular hike in recent years. The photogenic beauty of its deep blue lake and ominously perched lookout have recently been the subject of many photo features, from social media to magazines. Don’t come to Hidden Lake seeking to escape the crowds. A weekday hike is most rewarding, especially during fall once the summer crowds have thinned.
The first 1.0mi of the Hidden Lake trail climbs steadily through silver fir forest, along a path crossed by several creeks. Views open up after the 1.6km mark, where you’re greeted by summer wildflowers or autumn foliage. Climb in the shadow of tall peaks through the Sibley Creek valley, turning around for views to Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and Sauk Mountain.
At around 2.4mi the grade tapers off and the views continue to improve. Irresistible blueberries litter the path through this section, and are an iconic feature of the Hidden Lake trail, so take time to indulge. At 3.1mi the grade picks up again as the route turns towards the lookout. Beyond this point, the trail can be tricky to navigate if there’s any snow left on the ground. Know your limits, and don’t continue if the conditions are dangerous.
Peer up at the Hidden Lake lookout as you hike steadily towards it. Spires reach skyward like wicked witch fingers. “As you near the saddle, the trail is easily lost in rocky slopes and lingering snowfields”, warns the National Park Service. They aren’t kidding. It’s easy to lose the trail here, so pay attention to the rock cairns leading the way. Reach a saddle and enter the National Park at 4.0mi, with commanding views over Hidden Lake, one of the most spectacular lookouts in the North Cascades National Park
Many hikers will be content to turn around here for an 8-mile round trip hike. For those who can’t resist, the saddle presents two additional options. You can scramble a steep 0.5mi down boulders to the lake, or scramble a steep 0.5mi up a rocky, narrow path to the lookout. Again, know your limits – safety is more important than getting the perfect ‘gram shot.
Return the way you came. You just knocked off one of the best hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest!
Hiking Trail Highlights
Hidden Lake and Lookout
The Hidden lake Lookout offers a magnificent 360-degree panorama over the North Cascades, a mountain vista that you’ll struggle to beat anywhere in Washington State! Hidden Lake itself sits in a dramatic cirque with steep sloping sides that reach down to beautiful blue waters.
It’s easy to see why this incredibly picturesque lake has become such a prominent attraction in the North Cascades, surrounded by snow-capped spires reaching for the heavens, the rugged slopes reflected in the still waters. The trek up to the lookout is a challenging but immensely satisfying hike, with characteristic alpine foliage and wildflowers adding a dash of color to the rocky landscape.
The Hidden Lake Lookout was built in 1932 by the US Forest Service, and was used during World War II as an aircraft warning system. After the war, it fell into disuse and was later restored by the Skagit Alpine Club, led by Dr. Fred Darvill. It’s one of only two traditional gable roof-style lookouts in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest and is an important piece of local history. It’s possible to stay at the lookout for a small donation to the Friends of Hidden Lake Lookout on a first-come first-served basis.
Hikers can stay overnight in the lookout on a first-come, first-served basis.
A backcountry permit is required to camp overnight in North Cascades National Park and can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount.
Snow lingers into late summer along this trail. An ice axe, climbing skills, and route finding are needed to reach the lookout in the early season.
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