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Blue Lake

North Cascades


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
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4.4 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 1050 ft.
Highest Point: 6254 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

At 6254 feet, Blue Lake sits quietly a little over two trail miles from Highway 20. With towering granite peaks, forests, meadows, wildflowers, and of course the beautiful mountain lake surrounded by granite that reaches for the sky, this short hike is easily a classic and should be on your must-hike list. With only 1050 feet of elevation gain this hike is doable for almost everyone. If you’re driving over Highway 20 and don’t have all day, stop for this mountain gem.

With the trailhead parking lot right off the highway, you will waste no time getting onto the trail. Start off with a small dip in elevation to a short boardwalk. This is the first of several short boardwalks you will traverse into a friendly forest. At a quarter mile, the boardwalks end and you get your last glance at the highway. Though you can’t see it past this point, you may be able to hear the cars passing on the road for a little while more. Don’t worry, the sound will fade away and you will soon forget all about cars and highways as you gaze at the beauty of the North Cascades. Let the sounds of the trail stir your curiosity,

In the summer the trail may be dusty, but there is ample shade as you trod the cushy path through a rocky forest. Emerging into a meadow a little under halfway there, start looking for wildflowers such as Cascade Azalea or Lupine. Also, keep an eye out for the Early Winters Spire with its massive granite peaks. This is a popular climbing location that is part of the nearby Liberty Bell group. If you see any climbers they are most likely heading that direction.

From the meadow you pass over a small creek and step back into the forest. The rest of the hike passes fairly quickly as you skirt the Liberty Mountain Group. For the last half mile or so you may find keeping your eyes on the trail difficult to do as they are drawn to the sweeping views of Cutthroat Peak and Whistler Mountain on the northwestern side of Highway 20. Keep pushing on and when you hear a gentle trickling sound, you'll know you are close; this noise is coming from an outflow stream from Blue Lake.

When you see the lake, continue right over Blue Lake’s outlet by carefully stepping on rocks or the makeshift log bridge. The logs can have some give, so be careful, but once you are over the creek you pass an old dilapidated log cabin. Explore the cabin and then perch yourself along the shore on a boulder for a snack and great views of this pristine mountain lake and a possible mountain goat sighting. If you are brave enough, take a plunge into the lakes icy waters or just cool your feet.

WTA Pro Tip: Just 0.8 miles east from the trailhead on Highway 20 is the Washington Pass Lookout. If you have come this far and have the time, stop here for amazing views of the Liberty Mountain group from the side opposite that of Blue Lake. There is a short paved trail to the view point.


Blue Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.5191, -120.6742 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Blue Lake (#314)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green Trails Washington Pass No. 50 map

Download a map to plan your hike

Getting There

Approaching from the west, drive 42.1 miles from Newhalem on Highway 20 and find the trailhead on the right. If you pass the Washington Pass Overlook,
you have gone too far.

From the east, drive 31.3 miles from Winthrop on Highway 20 and find the trailhead on the left a little under a mile past the Washington Pass Overlook.

A privy is available at the trailhead.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Blue Lake

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