Blue Lake in North Cascades Park of Washington State, USA – 7.08 km (4.4 miles) return, easy, 3 hrs, elevation 320m (1,050 feet)
Access: Taking North Cascades Highway state – Route 20 through Marblemount and Newhalem drive to milepost 161, 1 mile west o Washington Pass off Highway 20.
Blue Lake is one of the easiest hikes you can find in North Cascades Park, so expect many hikers there, and full, or almost full parking, unless you come later in a day like us.
We wanted to be at the lake just before the sun set, but we arrived way too late at the trailhead. That meant we didn’t have enough time to walk the whole distance, so we decided to run up instead. We made it to the top just before sun set. The fact that we were able to run the whole distance should tell you a lot about the level of difficulty of that trail.
The path was well defined and comfortable. We were passing many people coming back from the trail, and some climbers.
The whole distance to the lake was uninteresting in terms of the views and wildlife, with an exception of just few openings revealing the prominence of Liberty Bell and Winter Spires granite peaks.
The trail started along long boardwalk in a dense pine and spruce forest. It continued flat for ½ mile (0.8 km), and then it started to roll up gradually.
The traffic noise from the highway was noticeable, but after couple of switchbacks it slowly faded out. At 0.9 mile (1.4 km) the trail approached the open meadow. We spotted some wildflowers there including Lupine and Cascade Azalea.
After short distance from the meadow the forest got less dense, and we were able to get a first glimpse of Cutthroat Peak and Whistler Mountain.
In about a mile in a trail we saw lovely larch trees. Larch is a coniferous tree and loses its needles every autumn. If we were here in the fall the landscape would turn golden.
The trail continued through the forest again, and started to skirt the Liberty Bell Mountain.
From here it took us only 0.5 mile to get to the lake. Once we approached the lake area the first thing we saw was an old beaver dam and tree branches submerged in the water. If you look deep into the water you may spot a native cutthroat swimming in the water (picture below).
On the right side of the trail there is a short path which you can take and explore the lake further. The Blue Lake is being fed by the glacier hence its deep turquoise colour. The prominent peaks in the distance over Blue Lake are Liberty Bell and Winter Spires.
When you visit the lake in the fall, you will soak the view of yellow larches standing in contrast to a turquoise water of the lake. Still, in a summer time the lake looked just magnificent. Don’t you agree?
If you need to check the condition of the trail call North Cascades National Park Complex at 360-856-5700
Camping is forbidden at Blue Lake
Dogs are allowed on this trail
You can swim in this lake, but the water is cold