Winthrop, Washington

Hike to Blue Lake, WA

4.5 Miles Total - 1100 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Nick Lake

This hike is full of top-notch mountain and alpine lake views. In the fall, take in Incredible autumn foliage with bright orange Larch.

Blue Lake is a fantastic alpine lake along a moderate trail in the sawtooth North Cascades, featuring views of some of the most impressive peaks in the range. A 4.5-mile out-and-back gaining about 1,100 feet, the trail to Blue Lake Trail features summer wildflowers, autumn Larch and jagged snow-capped peaks and is located along one of Washington’s iconic scenic drives.

Begin at the trailhead parking lot directly off the North Cascades Highway (SR-20) and find yourself immediately winding through a cool, sun dappled pine forest along a sequence of boardwalks before arriving at a series of meadows and avalanche deposits. Here, you’ll catch views of the Early Winter Spires to the east and Whistler Mountain and Cutthroat Peak to the northwest. Fiery Larch can be seen up on the higher mountain slopes in early fall, while warmer summer days showcase alpine wildflowers sprouting amongst twisted and tangled tree trunks tossed down the mountainside in avalanches.

From here, the trail curls around the backside of Liberty Bell Mountain, crosses a slightly precarious logjam at the outlet of Blue Lake and opens up to the lake itself and its million-dollar views. The rocky northern shore of the lake is an ideal picnic location, so be sure to bring lunch, and, if you’re hiking in the summer, a bathing suit for a chilly, refreshing dip.

If you’ve got some extra time after your hike, be sure to drive up to the Washington Pass Overlook for jaw-dropping views of Liberty Bell Mountain, the Early Winter Spires, and the massive avalanche chutes that close down the North Cascades Highway each winter.

Things to Keep in Mind:
  • A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead
  • A composting toilet is available at the trailhead
  • Even in early autumn, packed snow and ice can make the trail slippery near the lake—traction may be required.
  • The North Cascades Highway is closed due to heavy snow and avalanche danger, usually from November until April. Be sure to check the WA-DOT pass website to make sure Washington Pass is open.
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Tags

Photography
Swimming
Hiking
Forest
Lake
Wildflowers
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Love the Larches!

Love seeing the larches in the Fall, and a beautiful azure lake that looks fun to swim in in the Summer. Also, there looks like there is a climber's path off to the left about a half mile from the lake that leads to some awesome alpine climbing (I couldn't help but check it out).

Incredible views.

Stunning views once you get to the top. The beginning of the hike is a little tricky trying to maneuver through the fallen trees and the snow. But once you find the trail, it's a good one. Lots of snow toward the top but the end view is worth it.

Mountain Goats

Great hike for beginners and children, incredible views of Liberty Bell all the way up. Lot's of mountain goats in the area so make sure to be careful and aware of them, but enjoy their presence!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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