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

Distance: 11.09 miles
Elevation: 4,183 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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. 

The trail to Cascade Pass is well-graded and not too hard, but it gets steeper once you start going up Sahale Arm. 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 

Distance: 8.35 miles
Elevation: 2,005 feet
Type: Loop

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. If you want a little more, go up Table Mountain.

3. Maple Pass Loop

Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation: 2,185 feet
Type: Loop

This trail is another excellent loop with beautiful views of Lake Ann and Rainy Lake and the surrounding mountains. It is worth it to do the extra mile trip to Rainy Lake.

4. Hidden Lake Lookout

Distance: 7.39 miles
Elevation: 3,415 feet
Type: Out-and-back

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 a must-do if you enjoy fire lookouts.

5. Lookout Mountain

Distance: 9.06 miles
Elevation: 4,610 feet
Type: Out-and-back

If you want to stay in a fire lookout you might want to check out Lookout Mountain. This lookout is available to stay in on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a hard hike up, but has great views. 

6. Easy Pass

Distance: 7.81 miles
Elevation: 2,844 feet
Type: Out-and-back

Don't be fooled by the name; this hike isn't exactly easy. The last part before the top of the pass is steep and rocky, but the views are worth it in the end. The views looking into North Cascades National Park are excellent examples of U-shaped glacially-carved valleys.

7. Thunder Creek

Distance: 10.48 miles
Elevation: 1,027 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This is a long trail but most people just do the beginning because it's more accessible. The path starts off very flat as you walk by the creek and old growth forests. I did the beginning of the 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 you walk further along, the route gains elevation. Junction Camp has awesome views of mountains and glaciers. This is an excellent option if you come before snow on the higher elevation trails has melted.

8. Sourdough Mountain

Distance: 9.34 miles
Elevation: 5,046 feet
Type: Out-and-back

This is a very difficult trail. Right from the start, you quickly gain elevation. The first few miles don't offer great views. but you are eventually rewarded once above tree line.

I did this hike too early in the season and the end of it was very difficult and covered in snow. 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

Distance: 10.57 miles
Elevation: 3,885 feet
Type: Out-and-back

On the day I did this hike, 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. 

10. East Bank Trail

Distance: 9.2 miles
Elevation: 978 feet
Type: Out-and-back

I backpacked this trail early in the season. It's a great option if you come in May or June before most of the above trails are melted out. The path goes 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 the walk once you actually get down to the shore after 7 miles. 

I stayed at the Rainbow Point Camp which I highly recommend if backpacking. If you want to do this trail as a day hike, I would hike to the view towards Hidden Hand and then go back to the trailhead.

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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