Hidden Lake Trail

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Hard
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.
5-7h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
13.0 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.
914 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.
9.6
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.
Intermediate (Square)
Suitable for intermediates who are ready for a little bit more 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
Hidden Lake Trail Hike in North Cascades National Park

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.

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Route Description for Hidden Lake Trail

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 1.6 km 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 3.9 km 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 5.0 km 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 6.4 km, 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 0.8 km down boulders to the lake, or scramble a steep 0.8 km 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.

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

Insider Hints for Hidden Lake Trail

  • 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.

Getting to the Hidden Lake Trail Trailhead

To get to the Hidden Lake trailhead, drive the Cascade River Road from Marblemount for 15.8 km to the junction with FS 1540, signed for Hidden Lake Trail. Drive the steep, rocky road 7.2 km to the trailhead at the end of the road. No pass required.

Route Information

  • When to do

    July to October

  • Backcountry Campsites

    Yes, at Hidden Lake and lookout

  • Toilets

    No

  • Family friendly

    No

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Hidden Lake Trail Elevation Graph

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Hidden Lake Trail Reviews

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