5 Best Hikes in North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park Overview

Although North Cascades National Park is more of the ‘driver’s national park’, there are still plenty of beautiful, fun, and challenging trails to hike. The park is located less than 3 hours from Seattle in northern Washington just below the Canadian border. Split by the Skagit River, North Cascades National Park comprises a northern and southern section. Streams and lakes within the park are turned a beautiful turquoise blue from the meltwater of the glaciers sitting above in the Cascade Mountains. If you’re wanting to see some of the backcountry lakes and peaks of North Cascades National Park, make sure you bring a 4WD vehicle with you as there are some windy, gravel roads you’ll need to access. The hikes at the end of these roads though make the tough journey well worth it! Below are the 5 best hikes in North Cascades National Park! 

Nearest Metro AreaSeattle, WA
Area Size504,654 acres
EstablishedOctober 2, 1968
Hiking Trails400 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in North Cascades National Park

Cascade Pass Trail (Cascade Pass)
Hikes in North Cascades National Park
Cascade Pass, Photo by Jeffhollett

This is a beautiful hike and one of the most popular in the park. Along the way you’ll catch views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers…the hike can be extended beyond Cascade Pass to Sahale Arm.

  • 7.4 miles out and back (11.8 miles to Sahale and back)
  • 1,700′ elevation gain (nearly 4,000′ gain to Sahale)
  • Moderate / Strenuous
Hidden Lake Trail (Cascade Pass)
Hidden Lake, Photo by ©2014 Walter Siegmund

Another popular and incredibly beautiful day hike that is accessed from Cascade River Road. The trail begins in a forested area but quickly rises on a rocky slop that has a historic fire lookout on top overlooking Hidden Lake. The trailhead is located at the end of Sibley Creek (Hidden Lake) Road (USFS Rd #1540) off of Cascade River Road.

  • 7.0 miles out and back
  • 2900′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Rainbow Loop (Stehekin)
Hikes in North Cascades National Park
River Loop Trail, Photo by Joe Mabel

Most popular during the early season because of the beautiful wildflowers in spring. The lower, southern trailhead is located 2.6 miles from the Stehekin Landing on the Stehekin Valley Road and can be accessed via the shuttle.

  • 4.4 miles loop
  • 1000′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Diablo Lake Trail (WA-20 Highway)
Hikes in North Cascades National Park
Diablo Lake, Photo by Chris Haffler

Catch glimpses of glaciers and peaks from the North side of Diablo Lake. The trailhead is located off Diablo Dam Road from Highway 20.

  • 7.6 miles out and back
  • 1,800′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Thunder Knob Trail (WA-20 Highway)
End of Thunder Knob Trail
End of Thunder Knob Trail, Photo by David Fulmer

Family friendly hike with great views of Diablo Lake. The trailhead is located next to the Colonial Creek Campground off of Highway 20.

  • 3.6 miles out and back
  • 425′ elevation gain
  • Easy

Featured Image: Diablo Lake, Photo by Chris Haffler

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