Distance: 4.4 Miles RT
Elevation Gain: 1050 Feet
Season: Mid-summer to early fall
Maps: Green Trails Washington Pass No. 50
Description: This trail starts high and ascends higher, but kids and moms alike can handle the grade. From the moderate-sized trailhead at 6250 feet elevation on the side of Hwy 20, the trail climbs gently over some boardwalks and through subalpine forest. Soon enough you’ll leave the sound of cars behind as you wind up into a basin, where you get your first view of the towering crags above. The evergreens get sparser as you climb in elevation, but if you go in the fall, you’ll find this is a fabulous trail for fall color, especially the famed larches. Giant boulders form magical rock gardens; you may see climbers heading up to tackle the majestic rock formations around the lake basin. When you reach Blue Lake’s outlet stream, you’re almost there (the crossing may be on rocks or on logs.) A little bit further and you’ll find spots to hang out on granite slabs next to the lake. If you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day, enjoy the deep blue colors of the water and the rocks and snow reflecting off it. Camping is not allowed at the lake, but kids will find the remains of an old wooden cabin interesting.
Directions: From I-5, drive east on Hwy 20, the North Cascades Highway, toward Washington Pass. The trailhead is about 42 miles east of Newhalem, before you reach Washington Pass. The parking area is signed, on the right (south) side of the highway. You need a NW Forest Pass to park. There is a privy at the trailhead.
Links: Read our trip report from our hike.