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The Top 10 Hikes in the North Cascades

The North Cascades has many great hikes. Here are my favorites

By: Michael Fricke + Save to a List

I spent the summer up in Washington in the North Cascades and these are my favorite hikes from my time there. By no means did I hike every hike - that would be impossible in one summer - but here is what I found to be my top 10 hikes of the North Cascades.

1. Cascade Pass, Sahale Glacier

I backpacked this and spent the night up there. It is absolutely stunning. The hike to Cascade Pass is very popular and the road is only open in the summer from about July to October. This trail roundtrip is 12 miles with about 4000 feet of elevation gain. The trail to Cascade Pass is well graded and not too hard but once you start going up Sahale Arm it gets steeper. It is all worth it once you get to the top. When I was up there I experienced an amazing sunset and sunrise. This trail is also very good for wildlife; I saw a group of mountain goats and  black bears are also sighted in the area often in summer.

2. Chain Lakes 

This hike is in the Mt. Baker Wilderness. Take highway 542 all the way to Heather Meadows and Artist Point. It is amazing, the entire hike you see either Mt. Shuksan or Mt. Baker. You are hiking either on ridges with excellent views or by beautiful mountain lakes almost the whole way. The hike is about 8 miles with 1700 feet of elevation gain. If you want a little more also go up Table Mountain.

3. Maple Pass Loop

Another excellent loop with beautiful views of Lake Ann and Rainy Lake and the surrounding mountains.  This hike is 7.5 miles with about 2500 feet of elevation gain.  It is worth it to do the extra mile trip to Rainy Lake.

4. Hidden Lake Lookout

If you want 360 degree views of mountains this is the hike for you. From the lookout you can see miles in every direction and the view of the lake is also beautiful. This hike is 8 miles with 3300 feet of elevation gain. It's a must-do if you enjoy fire lookouts.

5. Lookout Mountain

If you want to stay in a fire lookout you might want to check out Lookout Mountain.  It's lookout is available to stay in on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a hard hike up but has great views. This hike is 9.4 miles roundtrip with about 4500 feet of elevation gain. The lookout is very nice.  

6. Easy Pass

Don't be fooled by the name; this hike isn't exactly easy. It's about 7 miles round trip with about 2800 feet of elevation gain. The last part before the top of the pass is steep and rocky but the views are worth it in the end. As you look into North Cascades National Park it is an excellent example of U-shaped glacially-carved valleys.

7. Thunder Creek

This is a great trail for everyone. It is a long trail but most people just do the beginning of it. It starts off very flat walking by the creek and old growth forests. I did the beginning of this trail many times when I just wanted a short relaxing walk in the woods. I also backpacked 10 miles in to Junction Camp one weekend. As the trail goes further, it starts to gain elevation. Junction Camp has awesome views of mountains and glaciers. This is an excellent option if you come before the higher elevation trails are melted out.

8. Sourdough Mountain

This is a very difficult trail. Right from the start you are gaining elevation fast. The first few miles there are not great views. You eventually get rewarded once above tree line. I did this hike too early in the season and the end of it was very difficult and snow covered. Remember most popular mountain trails in the North Cascades are covered in snow until mid July. The photos from this hike were taken the last week of June.

9. Thornton Lakes

This is a good hike to a large lake.  On the day I did it, the weather was very cloudy so there was limited visibility.  Because of that I did not go up to Trappers Peak which I have been told has great views.  Hiking down to the lakes was nice though.  This trail is about 10 miles roundtrip with about 2900 feet of elevation gain.

10. East Bank Trail

I backpacked this trail early in the season. This trail is a great option if you come in May or June before most of the above trails are melted out. The trail is mostly through the woods for the first 7 miles. You don't really get many views despite the name, which many people take as being a trail along the lake. It's worth it once you actually do get down to the shore after 7 miles. I stayed at the Rainbow Point Camp which I highly recommend if backpacking this trail. If you want to do this trail as a day hike I would hike to the view towards Hidden Hand and back.

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram.

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