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Happy Creek Nature Trail

North Cascades

Hikers can choose from an easy loop partially along Happy Creek, or a longer hike to Happy Creek Falls, site of an old sawmill that supported the mining in the late 1800's. Continue reading


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


Gain: 570 ft.
Highest Point: 2780 ft.


3.83 out of 5

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  • Old growth
  • Rivers
  • Good for kids
  • Waterfalls

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


Hikers can choose from an easy loop partially along Happy Creek, or a longer hike to Happy Creek Falls, site of an old sawmill that supported the mining in the late 1800's.

At the trailhead a very informative sign describes the history of the area and has a map of the nature trail.
The first part of the trail is an ADA compliant loop through the old growth forest of 0.3 miles mostly on boardwalk. The right branch (south) is all on boardwalk and overlooks Happy Creek. Halfway around the loop is the junction with the trail to Happy Creek Falls. The return part of the loop has more gravel trail as it wanders around the old trees. The entire loop is very shaded, even on a sunny day. This is a good walk for young children.

Even with a shallow gradient, the boardwalk can be pretty slick when wet, snowy or icy.

From the nature trail, the trail to the falls is of a completely different character. The initial section climbs away from Happy Creek on a duff tread into a more open forest and a peek-a-boo view of Ross Lake and Jack Mountain. The trail traverses about 100 feet above State Route 20, so the road noise is quite evident. 

At 0.4 miles, a boot trail comes in from a pullout on SR 20. At 0.9 miles, the trail starts climbing steeply through the moss covered rock outcrops. The trail becomes quite rocky, even small streambeds in places. After leveling off and re-entering the old forest, the trail nears Happy Creek again. A short climb along the creek passes some of the antique saw mill equipment, before reaching the base of the falls at 1.3 miles.

The falls are a series of short steps down a steep gully. In spring and late fall, the falls are fairly full. In late summer, they are a more of a trickle between the rocks.

Wheelchair Accessibility

This entry covers both the Happy Creek Forest Walk and the longer Happy Creek Nature Trail. The forest walk is a 1/3 mile-long loop through forest that is paved and packed gravel and is ADA compliant in optimal conditions. Visitors may also be able to hike the Nature Trail depending on the chair and comfort navigating narrower trails.

Hike by WTA Correspondents
Rolan Shomber

Happy Creek Nature Trail

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.7274, -121.0628 Open in Google Maps


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Happy Creek Nature Trail (#)

North Cascades National Park

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Toilet Information

  • Toilet at trailhead

More information about toilets

Guidebooks & Maps

USGS Topographic Ross Dam (7.5')

Buy the Green Trails Diablo Dam No. 48 map

Getting There

From Newhalem, go east on State Route 20 for 14.0 miles to the trailhead parking on the right (between milepost 134 and 135). The trailhead has parking for 4 cars plus two ADA parking spots. The trailhead is only 0.5 mile beyond the western winter closure gate for State Route 20, making this a viable trip even in winter.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee


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Happy Creek Nature Trail

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