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Mudhole Lake

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
48.5792, -120.4787 Map & Directions
Length
8.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
4000 feet
Highest Point
6550 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Hard
Mudhole Lake, looking rather swampy. Photo by Austin Smith. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Lakes
  • Established campsites
  • Rivers

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

With an ominous name like Mudhole Lake, it would be easy to set low expectations for this destination. Don’t be fooled though. This infrequently-visited route provides a steep ascent on good trail with expansive views and good berries in season. After just a couple of miles, a hidden pond, nestled in among larches in a high mountain cirque, will be all yours. Continue reading

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Hiking Mudhole Lake

Mudhole Lake is a quaint little pond which quickly fills with reeds as the summer dries it out. A hunter’s camp occupies the eastern end of the lake, indicating that there is likely water available throughout the season. This high country is sparsely treed, with golden larches interspersed among glorious white granite boulders. Cross-country ramblers will enjoy exploring the high hills from a basecamp at Mudhole Lake, soaking in nearby views of Silver Star, Kangaroo Ridge, Gardener and others.

Your hike will begin at the same trailhead as Cedar Creek trail. This dry, dusty trail parallels Cedar Creek well above the creek. Just two hundred yards from the trailhead, an unsigned trail (your route) turns right. This trail, numbered 476A on some maps is no longer part of the Forest Service's official inventory, but remains remarkably well-maintained. It's worth noting that some mapping sources show this trail turning off to the right after the next drainage. This is inaccurate; take the first obvious, albeit unsigned trail.

The way is moderately steep at first, gaining 2200 feet in the first two miles. Luckily though, the footing is good. Very few logs and a little erosion must be worked around. At approximately 5500 feet of elevation, a dry camp is reached.

The next two miles unfold along a rolling ridge and hillside. Subalpine firs and whitebark pine dominate but towards the end larches start to show themselves on the north side. By mid-summer, the upper half of the ridge is thick with grouse berries (vaccinium scoparium), also known as whortle berries. They're pretty small, so it'll take a while to gather enough if you want a pie, but they are very tasty, a good trail snack.

Multiple viewspoints along the ridge open up, giving beautiful views of the Sawtooth wilderness to the south, or of the Paysayten wilderness to the north. Gardener, Abernathy, Oval, and Reynolds Peaks are but of few of these high, rugged, eastern mountains visible from here.

Two miles and three rolling ridge summits later, you will start to gain some steady elevation. At 6600 feet there is a cairned fork in the trail. The lefthand fork takes you to cross-country ramblings. The righthand fork drops two hundred feet into a private, larch-strewn cirque. Flowers abound here in the summer and the larches are brilliantly golden here in the autumn. Prepare yourself for some solitude and enjoy.

Hike Description Written by
Austin Smith, WTA Correspondent

Mudhole Lake

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.5792, -120.4787 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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

From Burlington, drive 115 miles east on Highway 20. From Winthrop, it's 17 miles west on Highway 20. A sign points the way to the trailhead — turn south on FR 200 and proceed 0.8 miles to the trailhead.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Varden Creek (#476A)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Mudhole Lake

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