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Diablo Lake Trail

  • Difficulty
  • 7.1km
  • 244m
  • 3-4h

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The hike along the Diablo Lake Trail rises 700 feet 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.

Getting there

From Newhalem, drive east on the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) for 7 miles. Turn left onto Diablo Dam Road. Cross the dam, and in a little more than a mile you will arrive at the trailhead parking area.


Total Gain: 244m


Type of Hike One way
Crowd Levels Average
Route Signage Average
Toilets Yes, at North Cascades Environmental Learning Center
Family Friendly Yes
Backcountry Campgrounds No
When to Do June – October (one-way with ferry return) or Year-round (Out and Back)

 Detailed Description

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, this trail can be hiked out-and-back, either turning around at the Ross Dam overlook or the suspension bridge. We suggest hiking out during the summer months for the full ferry experience.

Begin 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 half-mile of hiking. At 0.3 miles 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 miles, 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 feet at 2.5 miles. In another mile, 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 miles. After crossing the bridge, follow the road south – through a tunnel and past a restroom, turning right at the road junction at 4.3 miles – to the Diablo Ferry dock. The ferry only comes twice daily during summer, so be sure to arrive on time (9am and 3:30pm). Fares are $10 per person. Enjoy the ride back!

Insider Hints

  • 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.