Elevation Gain (ft)

Blue Lake Trail is a great hike if you don’t have much experience, want a trail with a high reward to distance ratio or just love mountain lakes with pristine, crystal clear waters.  Do this hike in fall for the added bonus of seeing the larch trees, which surround the lake, turned a beautiful golden hue.

Location: North Cascades; 31 miles west of Winthrop, Washington State, USA

Trailhead: Signed parking lot off Highway 20. Located 42.1 miles from Newhalem and 31.3 miles from Winthrop near the Washington Pass Overlook; pit toilet; Recreation Pass required for parking at trailhead. $5/vehicle/day Northwest Forest Pass are available for purchase from a self-pay station at the trailhead.

Length: 4.4 miles round trip; +1,050 ft. elevation

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Type: Out and back

Warnings: Mountain weather is extremely variable.  Be ready for temperature swings, sudden rain, sleet and/or snow, and high winds.

Clear waters at Blue Lake in the North Cascades

Blue Lake Trail is an excellent introduction to the North Cascades of Washington.  In fact, it was the first trail I hiked in the region, and even though it was cloudy and started pouring buckets when we reached the lake, it holds a fond place in my heart.  Nestled close to the Early Winter Spires and with views of Cutthroat Peak and Liberty Bell Mountain, Blue Lake really is a jewel of a lake and has the color of a sapphire to prove it.

The trail from the parking lot quickly finds its way into forest with large old growth and smaller new growth trees as it starts to climb towards its namesake.  After 1.5 miles, a large cairn marks a climber’s route to Liberty Bell Mountain.  Continue straight along the main trail and soon you will arrive at the small, but picturesque Blue Lake ringed by scattered larch trees and jagged peaks.  There are social trails around the edge of the lake and plenty of rocks to have a rest or eat lunch.  

If you plan on camping, be aware that it is not allowed within ¼ mile of Blue Lake.  In the first half of the trail, there are some suitable campsites back in the woods along faint trails.  There are also some spots near the parking lot that are suitable for camping, but if there are heavy rains, the sites will likely flood.

Helpful Links:

Forest Service information on Blue Lake Trail

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