Hiking Road Trip Itinerary to North Cascades National Park Complex

3 day, 5, day, and 7 day hiking itineraries for North Cascades National Park, Washington with easier, moderate, and strenuous options for each day.
Sahale Mountain from Sahale Arm

North Cascades National Park and vicinity ranks as one of my all-time favorite national parks in terms of spectacular beauty.  Those sheer-faced peaks still speckled with snow well into the summer, the rich green pine forests, and the wildflowers in the summer months make my view-junkie heart swell every time.

Tiger lily along the Canyon Ridge Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Tiger lily along the Canyon Ridge Trail

So here I’ve compiled a hiking itinerary for adventuring in the North Cascades National Park Complex, with 3 day, 5 day, 7 day, and 12 day itineraries! I’ve included three different hiking options at three different hiking difficulties for each day (Easier, More Moderate, and Adventurous – which is another way of saying Moderate to Strenuous, Strenuous to Very Strenuous, and Very Strenuous But It’s Worth It).

3 Day Hiking Itinerary in North Cascades National Park

Visual map for a 3 day hiking itinerary for North Cascades National Park, Washington
Days 1, 2, and 3: Where you’ll be hiking

Day 1: Rainy Lake, Maple Pass, & Lake Ann

Rainy Lake, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Rainy Lake, PC Mark Smith

Easier: Hike to the lovely Rainy Lake (2.0 miles out & back) and Lake Ann (3.4 miles out & back) in a rocky cirque.

Views down on Lake Anne from the Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Views down on Lake Anne from the Maple Pass Loop

More Moderate: Hike the spectacular Maple Pass Loop (7.2 mile loop) to views of mountains and lakes.

Lake Ann – PC Jeff Hollett

Adventurous: Take the Maple Pass Loop (7.2 mile loop) for spectacular views.  Include the spurs to Rainy Lake (1.0 mile spur) and Lake Ann (1.0 mile spur) for even more views.

Total Hiking for Day 1: 5.4, 7.2 or 9.2 miles

Camping/Lodging: Camp or lodge in or near Marblemount, WA.

Day 2: Cascade Pass, Horseshoe Basin, Doubtful Lake, & Sahale Arm

The trail just below Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington
The trail just below Cascade Pass

Easier: Hike up to Cascade Pass (8.0 miles out & back) for fantastic views of nearby mountains

Looking back at Cascade Pass from near the Doubtful Lake junction, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Looking back at Cascade Pass from near the Doubtful Lake junction

More Moderate: Hike up to Cascade Pass (8.0 miles out & back) and turn left up Sahale Arm to the Doubtful Lake Junction (0.9 miles beyond the pass) for out-of-this-world spectacular views of nearby mountains and Doubtful Lake.  You can continue down to Doubtful Lake (1.0 mile RT spur) if desired.

Views from the Sahale Glacier Camp, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Views from the Sahale Glacier Camp

Adventurous: Your Choice: Hike up Sahale Arm to the Glacier Camp (13.4 miles out & back) for simply jaw-dropping views over mountains, valleys, and lakes.  Or continue over Cascade Pass into Pelton Basin and then turn on the spur into Horseshoe Basin (16.8 miles out & back).

Total Miles for Day 2: 8.0, 9.8/10.8, or 13.4/16.8 miles

Camping/Lodging: Keep your site or room in Marblemount for a second night.

Day 3: Hidden Lake: The Pass, The Lake, The Lookout

Mt. Baker from the Hidden Lake Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Mt. Baker from the Hidden Lake Pass

Easier: Hike up to Hidden Lake Pass (8.6 miles) for truly spectacular views of the Cascades and Mt. Baker.

The Hidden Lake Lookout, North Cascades National Park, Washington
The Hidden Lake Lookout

More Moderate: Hike up to Hidden Lake Pass (8.6 miles) and then continue the scramble up to the Hidden Lake Lookout (0.9 miles total scramble spur) for even better views over the surrounding mountains.

Hidden Lake from the lookout, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Hidden lake from the lookout

Adventurous: After hiking up to the Hidden lake Lookout (9.3 miles out & back), scramble down to Hidden Lake (1.0 mile RT spur).  There is no trail, so watch your step carefully.

Total Miles for Day 3: 8.6, 9.3, or 10.3 miles

5 Day Hiking Itinerary for North Cascades National Park Complex

Hiking locations map for a 5 day itinerary of North Cascades National Park, Washington
Day 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 hiking locations

Days 1, 2, & 3: Repeat 3 Day Itinerary

For days 1, 2, and 3 use the 3 Day Itinerary (Rainy Lake/Lake Ann/Maple Pass Loop; Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm area; Hidden Lake area).

Day 3 Camping: You can camp another night in Marblemount, but depending on current energy levels, I would recommend camping or lodging further west – for example, in Sedro-Woolley.

Day 4: Rest/Travel Day + Artist Point & Table Mountain

Drive up to the Mount Baker Highway (about 3 hours from Marblemount).  Stop in Glacier to snag a campsite, get a room if you don’t have reservations, and/or get your national forest pass at the ranger station.  Be absolutely certain to get your pass – there are no self-serve stations beyond the ranger station and the rangers do check to make sure you’ve paid.

Drive to the very end of the Mount Baker Highway up at Artist Point.

Mt. Shuksan from Artist Ridge, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Mt. Shuksan from Artist Ridge

Easy: Hike the Artist Ridge Trail out to Huntoon Point (1.5 miles out & back) for fabulous views of Mount Shuksan (views are better in the afternoon).

Mt. Baker from the Table Mountain Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Moderate: Hike up Table Mountain (3.0 miles out & back).  Views are fantastic over Mt. Baker (better in the morning) and Mt. Shucksan (better in the afternoon) as well as nearby valleys and mountains – all the way into Canada!

A somewhat socked-in Mt. Baker from Artist Ridge, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
A somewhat socked-in Mt. Baker from Artist Ridge

Slightly Adventurous: Hike up Table Mountain (3.0 miles out & back), then hike out the Artist Ridge Trail to Huntoon Point (1.5 miles out & back).

Mt. Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

No matter which option you take, stop on your way back down the highway at Picture Lake (0.3 mile semi-loop).  The views of Mt. Shuksan reflected in the lake are puzzle-worthy!

Total Miles for Day 4: 1.5, 3.0, or 4.5 miles

Camping/Lodging: Stay in or near Glacier, Washington – most accommodations and campgrounds are slightly rustic.

Day 5: Ptarmigan Ridge or Skyline Divide

At the top of Skyline Divide, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

Easier: Hike the Skyline Divide Trail to the top of the divide (4.2 miles out & back) for views of Mt. Baker and the Canadian Cascades.  You can continue along the ridge in either direction for even more views.

Hiking the southern part of Skyline Divide toward Mt. Baker, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

More Moderate: Hike the Skyline Divide Trail and turn right along the ridgeline for a ridgewalk with constant views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and other valleys and peaks (4.2-10+ miles).

Mt. Shuksan from the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

Adventurous: Take the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail (about 9.5 miles out & back) to the Coleman Camp (or beyond).  For views, this trail can’t be beat (about as close as you can hike to Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, etc., from a trail on the Mt. Baker Highway), but you’ll pay for those views with permanent snowfields, trails on near-sheer scree slopes, and a vague end-point.

7 Day Hiking Itinerary for North Cascades National Park Complex

Map of hiking destinations for a 7 day hiking itinerary of North Cascades National Park, Washington
Map of the hiking destinations for the 7 day itinerary. Note that 4a is easier, 4b is more moderate, and 4c is adventurous for day 4. 5a and 6a are easier/moderate; 5b and 6b are adventurous for days 5 and 6.

Day 1, Day 2, & Day 3: See 3 Day Itinerary

For days 1, 2, and 3, use the 3 Day Itinerary (Rainy Lake/Lake Ann/Maple Pass Loop; Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm area; Hidden Lake area).

Day 3 Camping/Lodging: You can continue to stay in Marblemount, or better yet, camp or lodge in Diablo or Newhalem.

Day 4: Sourdough Mountain, Easy Pass, or Blue Lake

Blue Lake, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Blue Lake – PC Sean O’Neill

Easier: Hike to Blue Lake (5.3 miles out & back) for en route views of a number of mountains and a crystal-clear lake.

Heading into Easy Pass, North Cascades National Park, Washington
Heading into Easy Pass – PC Brian Holsclaw

More Moderate: Check out the trail up to Easy Pass (7.7 miles out & back).  Views are stunning of the surrounding valleys and peaks.

Ross Lake from the Sourdough Mountain Trail, North Cascades National Monument, Washington
Ross Lake from the Sourdough Mountain Trail – PC V.H.S.

Adventurous: Take the extremely steep hike up Sourdough Mountain (9.1 miles out & back) to simply spectacular views of Ross Lake and nearby mountains – not to mention a fire lookout.

Total Miles Day 4: 5.3, 7.7, or 9.1 miles

Day 4 Camping: You can camp another night in Marblemount, Diablo, or Newhalem, but depending on current energy levels, I would recommend camping or lodging further west – for example, in Sedro-Woolley.

Day 5: Travel Day/Winchester Fire Lookout or Lake Ann

Drive up to the Mount Baker Highway (about 3 hours from Marblemount).  Stop in Glacier on the way to snag a campsite, get a room if you don’t have reservations, and/or get your national forest pass at the ranger station.  Be absolutely certain to get your pass – there are no self-serve stations beyond the ranger station and the rangers do check to make sure you’ve paid.

The Winchester Fire Lookout, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
The Winchester Fire Lookout

Easier/More Moderate: Drive up to the Twin Lakes Trailhead and hike up the steep trail to the Winchester Fire Lookout (3.5 miles out & back).  Views are beautiful to Mt. Baker and over surrounding peaks.

Mt. Shuksan from the Lake Ann Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
Mt. Shuksan from the Lake Ann Trail

Adventurous: If the road is too rough for your vehicle (it’s unlikely cars can make it to the trailhead; check at the ranger station for current conditions), hike to Lake Ann (8.8 miles out & back) for views of Mt. Shuksan (not the same Lake Ann as near the Maple Pass Loop). If the hike is too long, even a short hike on the trail is beautiful.

Camping/Lodging: Stay in or near Glacier, Washington – most accommodations and campgrounds are slightly rustic.

Day 6: Skyline Divide or Heliotrope Divide

At the top of Skyline Divide, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

Easier: Hike the Skyline Divide Trail to the top of the divide (4.2 miles out & back) for views of Mt. Baker and the Canadian Cascades.  You can continue along the ridge in either direction for even more views.

Hiking the southern part of Skyline Divide toward Mt. Baker, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

More Moderate: Hike the Skyline Divide Trail and turn right along the ridgeline for a ridgewalk with constant views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and other valleys and peaks (4.2-10+ miles).

The Coleman Glacier from Heliotrope Divide, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington
The Coleman Glacier from Heliotrope Divide

Adventurous: If you want a little more adventure, hike the Heliotrope Divide Trail (6.5 miles out & back).  Multiple river crossings (usually no more than knee-deep; most can be rock-hopped) and the end of the trail being multiple social trails makes this a little more difficult than other hikes.  Hikers are rewarded with views directly up the Coleman Glacier to the cone of Mt. Baker.

Total Miles for Day 6: 4.2, 4.2/10+, or 6.5 miles

Camping/Lodging: Stay in Glacier or vicinity.

Day 7: Ptarmigan Ridge, Table Mountain, or Artist Ridge

Mt. Baker from the Table Mountain Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Easier: Hike up Table Mountain (3.0 miles out & back).  Views are fantastic over Mt. Baker (better in the morning) and Mt. Shuksan (better in the afternoon) as well as nearby valleys and mountains – all the way into Canada!  After returning the parking area, hike the Artist Ridge Trail out to Huntoon Point (1.5 miles out & back) for fabulous views of Mount Shuksan (views are better in the afternoon).

One of the Chain of Lakes, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
One of the Chain Lakes

More Moderate: Start out taking the very scenic Chain of Lakes Trail along the base of Table Mountain with views over Mt. Baker and then down to several alpine lakes.  Return via the Wild Goose Trail for a total mileage of 6.7 miles.

Mt. Shuksan from the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington

Adventurous: Take the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail (about 9.5 miles out & back) to the Coleman Camp (or beyond).  For views, this trail can’t be beat (about as close as you can hike to Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, etc. on a trail from the Mount Baker Highway), but you’ll pay for those views with permanent snowfields, trails on near-sheer scree slopes, and a vague end-point.

Mt. Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

On your way back down the Mt. Baker Highway, be sure to stop at Picture Lake (0.3 mile semi-loop).  The views of Mt. Shuksan reflected in the lake are puzzle-worthy!

A few notes:

No entry fee is required for North Cascades National Park.  However, many trailheads are located in the nearby national forest, where a $5/day fee is required (national park passes are accepted).  The Mount Baker Highway requires the $5 fee for every single day that you are recreating on the highway, even if you arrive in the evening.  A self-service fee station is available at the ranger station in Glacier; there are no other fee stations along the highway.

Most of these hikes aren’t accessible until mid-July; some trailheads may be inaccessible into August depending on the year, snow levels, snowmelt, and plowing schedules.  So the best time for a road trip to North Cascades is August-September, with the second half of July and the first half of October being possibilities depending on snowfall and the progress of clearing the road.

The Mt. Baker Highway is technically in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, but NPS workers shamelessly claim the views along the highway as their own.  And since it’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever hiked, I’ve included a few of its vistas on the 5 day and 7 day itineraries.

Close up of a waterfall below a glacier on Mt. Baker from the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington
Close up of a waterfall below a glacier on Mt. Baker from the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

I’m assuming you’re in pretty good physical shape.  Hiking up mountains in the North Cascades is no picnic!

As with any mountain state, the weather can be iffy. Rain in the North Cascades is very normal – but summers often are sunny and pleasant.

I’m not including travel time to the North Cascades or back to your starting point – the days only include travel time between trailheads within the itineraries.

Because the lower slopes of the Cascades are so much lower than the lower slopes of the Rockies, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to acclimate the way you would need to in, say, Rocky Mountain National Park.  But on higher peaks you may still feel the altitude.

What stunning hikes in North Cascades National Park did I miss?  Let me know in the comments below!

This Week’s Featured Product!

With 125 trails in this book, you’ll have plenty to choose from in the North Cascades Complex area.  The trails are rated by overall quality, so you’ll know which are the best of the best before you go.