Your burning legs will be rewarded with panoramic views, few people, and maybe even some bears!

On a drizzly day, we set out to patrol Monogram Lake. Sore legs and thousands of feet later, we had the pristine lake all to ourselves with gorgeous fall weather and peek-a-boo views of the North Cascades.

From Highway 20 in Marblemount, take Cascade River Road for 7 miles and look for a small parking pullout on the right. The trailhead is across the street, heading north from the road. Primarily a forested hike, the trail climbs on switchbacks for 4000 feet until finally popping out on a ridge where the epic views make every mile worth it. Notice the lush vegetation changing as you ascend, including where the snow level impacts the landscape. Monogram Lake is frequently frozen until July, so if you come in the spring, be prepared for snow! Descending about 500 feet will bring you to the lake and designated backcountry camps.

This hike enters North Cascades National Park which means no dogs allowed to the lake and no parking permit required. If you want to spend the night at the lake, you must get a backcountry camping permit at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount. First-come, first-serve, up to 24 hours before your hike.

Monogram Lake Trail shares a trailhead with Lookout Mountain (#743). Branching left after 2.8 miles will bring you to the historic lookout, and since this alternate route is entirely within the National Forest, dogs are allowed and no permits are required for overnight stays. Monogram Lake is special though. Its visitation is very low, the sub-alpine experience is breathtaking, and there are frequently black bears in the meadows around the lake. On my journey, we saw a mom and a cub from a safe distance.

Park ranger pro tip: stay on trail and don't be a meadow-stomper. This is a well kept secret, and hopefully by practicing LNT we can keep it a gem of the North Cascades for a long time. Enjoy!

Pack List

  • Trekking poles
  • Water treatment to refill water at the top
  • 10 Essentials
  • Layers: you'll be working out on the climb then resting at high elevation
  • Pack towel for a summer alpine dip
  • Camera to capture Eldorado Peak
  • Backcountry permit (if overnight)
  • Alcohol/fuel stove (no fires allowed)
  • Bear canister (required and free to borrow in Marblemount)
Show More
RT Distance 9.8 Miles
Elevation Gain 4500 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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