8 of the Best Hikes in the PNW's North Cascades National Park
Check out some of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park. This park in the Pacific Northwest is known for its rugged mountains and lush forests.
The Pacific Northwest is the ultimate destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and the North Cascades specifically is one of the most popular regions. Explorers and hikers dream of the rugged mountain views, lush forests, and blue waters.
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You should be warned that hiking in the area is not for the faint-hearted — many of the trails are long and difficult, with only a few beginner options. But don’t let that stop you from visiting and experiencing some of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park, located in northern Washington State. We've sorted these hikes from from shortest to longest.
Gorge Creek Falls Trail
Gorge Creek is an easy, half-mile loop trail that provides excellent views of Gorge Lake and Gorge Dam. The greatest water flows will be in the spring and in the early summer, but this is a nice area to visit year-round. If you’re looking for a quick little hike in the park, this is a great option.
Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of the Cedars is short, but it’s definitely one you can’t miss if you’re visiting the North Cascades. This 0.6-mile out-and-back hike takes you across an awesome suspension bridge over the Skagit River and through the forest. Dogs are allowed on this one, just make sure they’re kept on a leash.
Skagit River Loop Trail
The Skagit River Loop is perfect for those who want a nice and easy day hike. This loop is 1.9 miles long, and provides visitors with both mountain and river views — there are even a few informative signs along the trail to enhance your knowledge of the area. Hikers can also admire the bright green foliage and moss.
Howard Lake presents nature lovers with a little bit of everything. This trail takes visitors on a journey through a vibrant forest, along peaceful lakes, and near rushing rivers — wildflowers and wildlife are often seen as well. At only 2.9 miles, this is an easy hike that will leave everyone feeling content.
The Howard Lake trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Cascade Pass Trail
Cascade Pass is a gorgeous 6.7-mile trail that’s worth every ounce of effort. While it’s not the most challenging hike in the park, it’s still moderately rated due to the switchbacks and elevation gain. This trail is best enjoyed between the months of June and September, with particularly great views in the fall. If you’re lucky, you might spot a black bear!
Sourdough Mountain Camp via Sourdough Lookout Trail
This 7.6-mile out-and-back trail is no joke. Sourdough Lookout is a difficult hike with some serious elevation gain — you’re going to want to bring your trekking poles for this one! One AllTrails reviewer even described the trail as “brutal” and “relentless.” But on the bright side, many also mentioned that their hard work completely paid off.
Thornton Lakes Trail
The Thornton Lakes trail starts in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and makes its way into North Cascades National Park. This is a difficult, 10.9-mile hike that’s frequented by backpackers and even some brave runners. Make sure you are fully prepared to visit — many reviews on AllTrails warn of difficult road conditions leading to the trailhead.
Sahale Arm Trail
Sahale Arm trail is very popular for hiking, camping, and seeing wildlife. On AllTrails, one hiker said that they were able to see a mountain goat, three bears, and two deer — another said that they saw six bears! To enjoy this challenging 12.1-mile trail, it’s recommended to show up early, as it can get pretty busy.