The North Cascades

The Best Hiking Trails in the North Cascades

Easy rambles and rewarding treks in our northern mountains.

By Craig Romano August 1, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Sourdough Mountain Trail The route to the old fire lookout is as steep as it is scenic.

Skagit River Loop

What you’re in for: A walk in the (national) park for all ages
What to see: Mosey through maple and yew trees along the Skagit River, well populated by otters, eagles, dippers, and salmon. 
How far to slog: 1.8 miles round trip
Where to find it: North Cascades National Park Visitor Center in Newhalem

Thunder Knob

What you’re in for: A gentle ramble over log bridges
What to see: Hike around moss-covered ledges to a little promontory above Diablo Lake, where you’ll catch a glimpse of 9,065-foot Jack Mountain, the most prominent in the Skagit Valley. 
How far to slog: 3.8 miles round trip
Where to find it: West end of Colonial Creek Campground 

Sourdough Mountain Lookout

What you're in for: A lung buster gaining over one vertical mile in just over five linear miles, one of the most challenging hikes in the North Cascades
What to see: You get brilliant, flower-filled alpine meadows, a 1933 lookout, and the far-reaching views you’d expect from a fire-watching perch.
How far to slog: 11.4 miles round trip
Where to find it: Diablo, off Highway 20

Trapper Peak

What you’re in for: A scramble that demands sure feet
What to see: It’s a tough hike up a narrow spine, but from the 5,964-foot peak you can see dramatic Pickett Range, sparkling Thornton Lakes, and tiny Newhalem on the Skagit River, a full mile below.
How far to slog: 10.6 miles round trip
Where to find it: Thornton Lakes Road off Highway 20 near Newhalem 

Hidden Lake Lookout

What you’re in for: A trudge across snowfields and talus slopes
What to see: The trip past alpine meadows isn’t easy, but the reward is a 1931-built National Forest fire lookout positioned nearly 7,000 feet high. There’s plenty of company: pipits, ptarmigans, marmots, pikas, and mountain goats, plus views from the Eldorado Glacier all the way to Mount Rainier.
How far to slog: 9.0 miles round trip
Where to find it: Sibley Creek Road off of Cascade River Road 

Big Beaver–Little Beaver

What you’re in for: A long and steady trek over several days
What to see: Travel through two deep, remote valleys filled with old-growth timber and glacier-fed creeks, on the lookout for black bears, spotted owls, and cougars.
How far to slog: 37 miles round trip
Where to find it: Take the water taxi from Ross Dam Landing.

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