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Hidden Lake Trail

  • Difficulty
  • 13km
  • 914m
  • 5-6h

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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.

elevation

Total Gain: 914m

About

Type of Hike Out and Back
Crowd Levels High
Route Signage Average
Toilets No
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds Yes, at Hidden Lake and lookout
When to Do July to October

 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.