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Diablo Lake

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
48.7206, -121.1216 Map & Directions
7.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
1400 feet
Highest Point
1950 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Incredibly blue waters at Diablo Lake. Photo by HikerWendy. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Lakes

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


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. Continue reading

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Hiking 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.

A one-way option: In the summer and into the fall, City Light operates a ferry ($10) on Diablo Lake to provide transportation for guests and customers of the Ross Lake Resort. If there is room after those with a Ross Lake reservation have boarded, hikers or backpackers heading to or returning from Ross Lake may also opt to take the ferry - or simply anyone wishing to hike the Diablo Lake trail in one direction only. This is not the same boat as the "Skagit Tour." 

Toilet Information

  • No toilet at trailhead

More information about toilets

Hike Description Written by
Anna Roth, WTA Staff

Diablo Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.7206, -121.1216 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee


WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

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.

More Hike Details


North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green Trails Diablo Dam No. 48 map

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Diablo Lake

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