Distance: 3.4 Miles RT for just Lake Ann, 4 miles for Heather Pass, 7.2 miles for the loop
Elevation Gain: 700 feet for Lake Ann, 1000 feet to Heather Pass, 2000 feet for the loop
Season: Mid-Summer into early fall
Maps: Green Trails Mt. Logan No. 49 and Washington Pass No. 50
Description: This stunningly beautiful lake sits nestled in a bowl of alpine peaks. Starting from the Rainy Pass Trailhead, you’ll wind around and up through the valley, hiking trough forest and marmot-inhabited talus slopes. At 1.3 miles you’ll reach a junction; take the left fork, and in .3 miles you’ll be at the lake. No camping is allowed on the lake shore, but 1/4 mile back is an established campsite. Frogs and flowers await you in the lake basin. Stop here, or turn back to the junction and continue up the trail to Maple and Heather Pass. From the saddle, you’ll be rewarded for your climb with views in all directions. This is a great place to stop and turn around if you’ve had enough climbing. In the fall, you’ll experience amazing colors, and the Maple/Heather Pass Loop is one of the most popular and accessible hikes to see larches in al their glory. Camping at Lake Ann in October was one of the quietest (and coldest!) experiences I’ve had, and the stars – oh, the stars! If you continue on with the loop toward Maple Pass, you will climb some more, with different stupendous views at every change of direction. One section feels exposed as you pass above Lake Ann, but most of it feels safe on this section. When you reach MaplePass, there are views to the west of snowy peaks, to the east of the Early Winters Spires and many other summits, and down toward Lake Ann and Heather Pass. You can turn around here, too, before climbing the last bit up to the highest point. From there the trail turns very steep, and has some narrow, cliffy sections that made us feel uncomfortable. If you don’t want to tackle these difficult sections, turn around at Heather or Maple Pass and call it a wonderful day.
Directions: Drive east from I-5 on Highway 20 (the North Cascades Highway) to Milepost 158, where you’ll find the Rainy Pass Trailhead on the right. Privy and picnic tables are available. A NWForest Pass is required for parking. Note: this parking lot gets very full in summer, and especially on fall weekends. There is another parking lot across the highway to the north that you can use if the main one is full.