Washington Pass Overlook
- Physical DifficultyThis 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.
- Technical DifficultyThis 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.
The Washington Pass Overlook hike is a must-do for anybody visiting the North Cascades. This hike takes you along a short, paved path leading to incredible Liberty Bell views from the 1,707 m heights of Washington Pass. This little leg stretch is an excellent way to break up the drive between eastern and western Washington State.
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- Map Data: ©OpenStreetMap
- Tiles: ©CyclOSM
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Route Description for Washington Pass Overlook
Everyone – even non-hikers – can enjoy the soaring Liberty Bell Mountain views from the top of Washington Pass. A paved path cuts through pine-scented forest to the overlook, where Liberty Bell and Early Winters Spires dominate the view. Peer down onto a hairpin turn on Highway 20, some 213 m below. You can return the way you came for a 5-minute round trip walk, or continue around the loop for additional views.
To turn this walk into a short hike, take the 0.4 km circuit route. From the overlook, follow the path north. This portion of the trail is not wheelchair accessible, as it alternates between dirt and stairs. From the northern high point, Silver Star Mountain is on display, along with countless rugged ridges and spires.
Washington Pass provides an excellent introduction to the North Cascades, showcasing their wild, jagged, sky-piercing peaks. It’s also a learning environment, telling the story of the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) through interpretive signage. Opened in 1972, the North Cascades Highway is less than 50 years old - and Washington Pass is its highest point. Take your time wandering the path. It’s not difficult to imagine a time when no road existed here, when the wilderness remained wild and free of modern technology.
Hiking Trail Highlights
Washington Pass stands at an elevation of 1669m, deep in the heart of the North Cascades Mountains. It marks the highest point of the North Cascades Highway and marks the dividing line between eastern and western Washington. This dramatic and iconic part of the North Cascades landscape stands just four miles away from another high mountain pass, Rainy Pass, which is a little smaller, at an elevation of 1486m.
Washington Pass is best known as the best lookout point for Liberty Bell Mountain, as well as the striking view down onto the highway below, with its characteristic hairpin bends. This part of the North Cascades is known for its many avalanches in winter, and heavy snowfall means that it remains closed for most of the year, only opening between May and October.
Liberty Bell Mountain
Liberty Bell Mountain
Liberty Bell is one of Washington State’s best-known mountains, jutting up into the sky just above Washington Pass. The peak itself actually forms part of a cluster of spires including Concord Tower, Lexington Tower and the North and South Early Winters Spires. Although this mountain isn’t the tallest mountain in the North Cascades, it is a popular destination for mountaineers and climbers, who flock to the peak to take advantage of the high-quality granite and challenging climbing routes.
The peak is named after the famous, cracked Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol that is inextricably bound up with the quest for American independence. The looming mountain closely resembles the shape of the famous bell, even down to its chiseled, cracked face. It’s easy to see why Liberty Bell Mountain is one of the most photographed peaks in the North Cascades.
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 Washington Pass Overlook
- With easy access for all, the hike to the Washington Pass Overlook is wheelchair accessible, kid-friendly, and leashed dogs are welcome.
- Birds, squirrels, and other wildlife may beg for food in this heavily-trafficked area. Don’t feed the wildlife!
- For a longer hike around the back side of Liberty Bell, check out the nearby Blue Lake Trail.
Getting to the Washington Pass Overlook Trailhead
To get to the Washington Pass Overlook trailhead, head east from Newhalem on Highway 20 for 67.6 km to milepost 162. Turn left onto the signed overlook road.
Washington Pass Overlook Elevation Graph
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