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Diablo Lake

Follow the Diablo Lake Trail up and across talus slopes on the flanks of Sourdough Mountain to impressive cascading waterfalls and stunning views of Ross Lake and Colonial, Pyramid, Davis Peaks, as well as Jack Mountain.

The Diablo Lake Trail is an excellent choice year-round, but it's a particularly good option for an early season hike in the stunning North Cascades National Park, much of which is inaccessible during the winter and spring.

The trail starts out from the North Cascades Institute parking lot. Cross the Sourdough Creek trail -- which is not shown on the Green Trails map -- and follow the trail on a gentle uphill grade through old-growth forest. After climbing to 1500 feet, the trail crosses the dry streambed of Deer Creek, which provides a good demonstration of how powerful flood events can be in the North Cascades.

About 1.5 miles in, where tranmsission lines cross the trail, take a very short side trip to a vista of Diablo Lake. The views improve past this overlook, and begin to include non-stop views of Pyramid, Snowfield, Davis and Colonial Peaks. Walk slowly, both to soak in the views, and to watch your step -- a dizzying gorge, featuring waterfalls 700 feet high is coming up. Be sure to keep kids and dogs nearby! In winter, hikers can enjoy listening to only the sound of rushing water, since the highway visible across the way is closed to vehicle traffic.

Continue on, enjoying views of the vibrant blue lake. Just before reaching the switchbacks that lead 600 feet down to a suspension bridge near Ross Dam, hikers will cross an avalanche track. Be wary of this in winter and early spring -- it can be dangerous since that's where snow lingers on trail.

Shortly after crossing the avalanche chute, a rockslide blocks the east end of the suspension bridge at Ross Dam, so if you don't want to make the steep trek down to the bridge, you can rest at an overlook of Ross Lake Dam, enjoying the various North Cascades massifs that surround you. Take an inventory -- how many of the peaks can you identify?

Be sure to take your time on the way back; the views are equally impressive.
Driving Directions:

Drive east on the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) for 20 miles to the Gorge Lake Bridge. Cross the bridge, and continue for another 1.5 miles, then turn left onto Diablo Dam Road. The road will be signed for the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Stay on the road and cross the dam, and in a little more than a mile you will arrive at the end of the road and the trailhead.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 15 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Diablo Lake — Apr 12, 2014 — calixtomoon
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Bugs
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Ten of us hiked this trail on a gorgeous and sunny Saturday. The only other people we saw was a gro...
Ten of us hiked this trail on a gorgeous and sunny Saturday. The only other people we saw was a group of about four lunching on the suspension bridge. Love having a trail just for us!
Trail was snow-free and dry with several creek crossings…three that we had to carefully hop through (poles help with balance). Had some great views along the way. Mosquitos were ENORMOUS but not too deadly.
At the lookout, a friends pack fell down the cliff, and we thought it was lost forever, but he managed to climb down and get it successfully (phew). Lunch on the sunny suspension bridge was glorious and relaxing!
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Diablo Lake — Jan 14, 2014 — C P
Day hike
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Yes! you can do the North Cascades in winter. If you've never driven over the Diablo Dam just tha...
  Yes! you can do the North Cascades in winter. If you've never driven over the Diablo Dam just that makes it worthwhile. Take highway 20 past the Diablo townsite, past the Pyramid Lake TH, to Diablo Dam Road. Don't let the gate scare you, it opens automatically for cars coming out. Follow signs for North Cascades Institute, parking is just past. No snow or other hikers. Get out here!
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Diablo Lake — Aug 15, 2013 — EckartS
Day hike
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Washouts
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Diablo Lake Trail #730 In earlier years, you could take the passenger ferry to the base of Ross Dam...
Diablo Lake Trail #730
In earlier years, you could take the passenger ferry to the base of Ross Dam and then hike Diablo Lake trail back as a one-way hike to make a loop out of it.
Knowing that the suspension bridge is closed while a rock slide in the area is cleared, this has become an in-and-out hike, but we did it anyway to the high point before the trail drops down to the bridge.
In one place, the trail is eroded (photo) and rocks block the trail where it crosses one of the talus slopes (photo). We have not yet explored the trails that branch off near the Cascade Institute (Sourdough Creek or Deer Creek Flat).
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Diablo Lake — Mar 25, 2013 — Monkeyboy
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Mud/Rockslide | Snow on trail
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A favorable weather forecast and a new daypack to try out provided plenty of motivation to get out o...
A favorable weather forecast and a new daypack to try out provided plenty of motivation to get out on the trail. The Diablo Lake trail turned out to be a fantastic choice for an early season hike. The trailhead (1200 ft) starts out from the North Cascades Institute parking lot (drive across Diablo Dam and trun right for a short distance to parking area). we crossed the Sourdough Creek trail, which is not shown on the Green Trails map). the Diablo Lake trail continues as a gentle uphill grade through old growth forest. The trail is somewhat brushy and leaf covered although easy to follow. There were probably about a dozen downed logs on the trail; all are easy to step over or crawl under. At 1500 ft elev., the trail crosses the jumbled dry streambed of Deer Creek with a good demonstration of how powerful flood events can be in the North Cascades. A very short side trip at about 1 mile where tranmsission lines cross the trail leads to a great vista of Diablo Lake. Continuing on, the views become nearly non-stop of Pyramid and Colonial peaks as well as views down into the gorge of Diablo Lake. Max elevation of trail is 2100 ft. Just before reaching the switchbacks that lead down to the suspension bridge, we had to cross a snow choked avalanche track (easy to cross- you might want hiking poles). This was the only significant snow on the trail. We opted for the overlook of Ross Lake Dam with Jack Mt in the distance, which saved us from hiking down and back up 300 ft to the blocked suspension bridge. A rockslide blocks the trail before the suspension bridge at Ross Dam. We turned around and enjoyed more views on the way back. About 8 miles RT. The few stream crossings are all easy step overs and the trailbed is amazinly dry for this time of year. Highly recomend this hike for early spring.
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Diablo Lake — Aug 31, 2012 — wonkavate
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns
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A sunny day with the trail in near-perfect shape. A few early blowdowns, but none that require more ...
A sunny day with the trail in near-perfect shape. A few early blowdowns, but none that require more than stepping over. The trail starts in lush, cool forest, hidden from the sun and welcome on a hot August day. After crossing the Sourdough mountain trail, climb slowly to more exposed areas with lovely views of Diablo lake and surrounding glaciated mountains from high up onexposed limestone cliffs. A few rock fields spill onto the trail, but footing isn't precarious anywhere. Wrap around the cliffs to the East side of the mpountain where you are treated to deep gorge vistas and a view of Diablo Dam. Steadily downhill through sparser vegetation, highlighting the differences between west and east-side slopes. Finish with a set of switchbacks down to the gorge floor near the base of the dam. Note that, due to a rockslide it is no longer possible to link this hike with the Diablo Dam trail and continue on to Ross Lake.

Tjere wwre a few minor stream crossing, which were easy in Summer, but might be more challenging when the rivers are higher.
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diablo lake ross dam- galiwalker.jpg
View of the Ross Dam and Diablo Lake, photo taken by GaliWalker.
Location
North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway
North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area
Statistics
Roundtrip 7.6 miles
Elevation Gain 1400 ft
Highest Point 1950 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Diablo No. 48

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Red MarkerDiablo Lake
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Diablo Lake Trail (Apr 17)

Diablo Lake

North Cascades

Follow the Diablo Lake Trail up and across talus slopes on the flanks of Sourdough Mountain to impressive cascading waterfalls and stunning views. This hike in the North Cascades Institute's backyard makes a great option for an early season hike in stunning North Cascades National Park, much of which is inaccessible during the winter and spring.

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