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Maple Pass Loop

  • Difficulty
  • 11km
  • 623m
  • 4-6h

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Hiking the Maple Pass Loop in the North Cascades is a gem. This is one of the finest trails in the North Cascades, Maple Pass Loop is a stunner during its short season. Climbing high above alpine lakes, it skirts the North Cascades National Park boundary for views deep into the rugged and remote North Cascades. If you have time for just one North Cascades trail, this is the one.

Getting there

From Newhalem, drive 37 miles east on Highway 20. The signed Rainy Pass Picnic Area trailhead is on the right (milepost 157). Northwest Forest Pass required.

elevation

Total Gain: 623m

About

Type of Hike Loop
Crowd Levels High
Route Signage Average
Toilets Yes, at trailhead
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds No
When to Do July to October

 Detailed Description

Wildlife, wildflowers, and wilderness. A cirque-set alpine lake and circuitous route around it. Those seeking a favorable bang-to-buck ratio need look no further – Maple Pass Loop is as good as it gets. The only thing you might miss here is solitude, as the easy trailhead access and stunning scenery make for a very popular trail.

Follow “Lake Trail” signs south from the parking area to the trailhead. Soon you’re presented with an option: to hike the trail clockwise or counter-clockwise. While both directions are of equal merit, we describe it counter-clockwise here. Take a right at the junction to begin climbing steadily through the forest.

At 1.4 miles, reach a junction. Stay right to continue on the main trail to Maple Pass, or take the short (0.5-mile) detour out to Lake Ann. It’s worth the effort if you have time. Continuing on the main trail, views begin to open up over the lake. Switchbacks climb to Heather Pass at 2.4 miles, where a sign announces the National Park boundary.

Hike along the wildflower-strewn ridgeline before climbing to Maple Pass – a high alpine zone above the treeline. Marmots like to sun themselves on the rocks in this area, so listen for their whistles. Views along this stretch are incredible in every direction. A few notable, nearby summits include Corteo Peak, Black Peak, Cutthroat Peak and Whistler Mountain – but there are far too many to name. To the south, Glacier Peak is visible on clear days.

From the trail’s high point of nearly 7,000 feet, it drops rapidly along the ridgeline between Lake Ann and Rainy Lake. You’ll soon re-enter the forest, with peak-a-boo views down to Rainy Lake – fed by waterfalls – on your right. At 6.7 miles reach a junction with the Rainy Lake Trail. Head left to follow this flat, paved trail back to the trailhead.

Insider Hints

  • Visit Maple Pass during the fall for spectacular fall colors. Golden larches are a big attraction here.
  • Bring plenty of water, as there are no sources above the lakes.
  • Please respect fragile meadows and wildlife by staying on the trail.