Hidden Lake Trail

North Cascades
View Photos

Hidden Lake Trail

Distance: 8.1mi
Elevation: 2,999ft
Time: 5-6h

Difficulty Rating:

We love to hike the Hidden Lake Trail. This is true North Cascades beauty, with wildflowers, rocky spires, an alpine lake and an historic lookout awaiting hikers on the Hidden Lake Trail. Enjoy countless Cascade views as you hike this tough trail.

Getting there

From Marblemount, drive the Cascade River Road for 9.8 miles to the junction with FS 1540, signed for Hidden Lake Trail. Drive the steep, rocky road 4.5 miles to the road end trailhead. No pass required.

About

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


Elevation


Detailed Description

Hidden Lake Trail has become an explosively popular hike in recent years. Because its deep blue lake and ominously perched lookout are more photogenic than most, photo features – from social media to magazines – have skyrocketed. Don’t come to Hidden Lake seeking to escape the crowds. A weekday hike is most rewarding, especially during fall once summer crowds have thinned.

The first mile climbs steadily through silver fir forest. Several creeks cross the path. Views open up after the one-mile mark, where you’re greeted by summer wildflowers or autumn foliage. Climb beneath peaks through the Sibley Creek valley, turning around for views to Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and Sauk Mountain.

At around 2.4 miles the grade tapers off as views continue to improve. Blueberries are notoriously irresistible through this section, so take time to indulge. At 3.1 miles the grade picks up again as the trail 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 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 miles, with commanding views over Hidden Lake.

Many hikers will be content turning around here for an 8-mile roundtrip hike. For those who can’t resist, the saddle presents two additional options. You can scramble a steep half-mile down boulders to the lake, or scramble a steep half-mile up a rocky, narrow path to the lookout. Again, know your limits – safety is more important that getting the perfect ‘gram shot.

Return the way you came. You just knocked off one of the best hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest!

Insider Hints

  • 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 early season.

Similar adventures

Diablo Lake Trail

Difficulty:
4.4mi
801ft
3-4h

The hike along the Diablo Lake Trail rises 700 feet above Diablo Lake, delivering hikers to a view of Ross…

Cutthroat Pass

Difficulty:
10mi
2717ft
5-6h

The Cutthroat Pass hike is said to be one of the most scenic stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail in…

Cascade Pass

Difficulty:
7.4mi
1699ft
3-4h

The hike to Cascade Pass is one of the classic North Cascades hikes. We love Cascade Pass for a relatively…