top of page

Blue Lake | North Cascades National Park

When it comes to hiking in the North Cascades, it doesn't get much better than Blue Lake. This incredible destination is nestled high in the mountains, surrounded by lush forests and breathtaking views.

A visit to Blue Lake is a hiker's dream come true, with its crystal clear waters, stunning scenery, and a variety of trails to explore. Whether you're an experienced hiker or just getting started, a trip to Blue Lake will be sure to leave you in awe.

Blue Lake Visitor's Guide

How to Get There

If you're looking for a spectacular hike in the North Cascades, then Blue Lake Trailhead is the perfect spot! Located near Darrington, Washington, the North Cascades are mountains in the United States that are incredibly hard to beat. This specific trailhead is a great starting point for a variety of hikes and activities.

Blue Lake Trailhead Sign
The trailhead sign at Blue Lake.

Trail signs
Make sure you follow the trail for Blue Lake.

To get to Blue Lake Trailhead from Darrington, take WA 530 for about 7 miles. Just past the Glacier Peak Wilderness sign, turn left onto the North Fork Sauk Road (Forest Service Road 49). Follow this road for about 10 miles until you come to a fork in the road. At the fork, turn left onto Forest Service Road 4930 and follow that for about 5 miles until you reach the Blue Lake Trailhead parking lot.

The parking lot at Blue Lake Trailhead can accommodate around 20 cars, so plan to arrive early to secure your spot. You'll also find restrooms and a few picnic tables here as well. The trails leading out of the Blue Lake Trailhead are well-marked and easy to follow, so you won't have any trouble getting where you need to go.

Blue Lake
Blue Lake freezes over in winter.

What to Expect

A trip to Blue Lake in the North Cascades is an amazing experience for any hiker. The lake is nestled deep within the mountains and surrounded by lush forests, pristine meadows, and impressive rock formations.

Getting to Blue Lake is relatively easy - the trailhead is located just off the Mountain Loop Highway, and there's plenty of parking available for day hikers. You'll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park your vehicle, but the permit is well worth the cost for the incredible views you'll get.

The hike up to Blue Lake is relatively easy and not overly strenuous. It's about three miles one way and has a few switchbacks, but it's mostly flat with some minor elevation changes. There are a few rocky sections and a few downed trees, but nothing too challenging.

Blue Lake Trail
Part of the trail up to Blue Lake.

View on the way to Blue Lake
View on the way to Blue Lake

As for how busy Blue Lake can be, it all depends on the time of year. During the summer months, it's quite popular with hikers and campers, so expect to find other people enjoying the views. The lake is also popular among photographers who come to capture its picturesque scenery.

In the colder months, the area is much quieter as many visitors choose to stay away due to the cold temperatures.

Hiking to Blue Lake

The hike starts out with a gradual climb up switchbacks through a thick, mossy forest. You'll be surrounded by towering evergreens and ferns, along with the occasional glimpse of Mt. Shuksan or the Pickett Range in the distance. After about 2 miles, you'll emerge from the trees to find yourself on a vast, grassy plateau with open views of the North Cascades.

View at Blue Lake
View at Blue Lake

The last stretch of the hike is an easy stroll through a wildflower-filled meadow to reach Blue Lake. The lake sits in a shallow basin surrounded by tall, craggy peaks and lush green hills. The scenery is breathtaking and worth every step. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some wildlife like deer or marmots.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day hike or an overnight backpacking trip, Blue Lake has something for everyone. Take a dip in the lake to cool off, or find a spot on the shore for a picnic lunch. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better views in the North Cascades!

View on the way to blue lake
The view on the way to Blue Lake, early on in the trail.

Tips for Enjoying Your Hike

Exploring the North Cascades is a hiker’s dream. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s something for everyone in this amazing region. One of the highlights of the North Cascades is Blue Lake, and there are several ways to make your visit a memorable one. Here are some tips for enjoying your hike to Blue Lake and exploring the North Cascades.

1. Plan your route carefully. It’s important to research the trail you plan to take before embarking on your hike. Look up elevation gains and distances so you know what to expect. Be sure to take the right equipment with you, including food, water, and a first-aid kit, as well as maps and a compass.

Blue Lake in the North Cascades
Blue Lake in the North Cascades

2. Pack lightly but wisely. You don’t need to bring a lot of gear with you on your hike to Blue Lake, but be sure to bring the essentials. That includes enough food and water for the entire day, as well as a good pair of hiking boots, a raincoat, and layered clothing to keep you warm and dry in all weather conditions.

3. Respect wildlife. The North Cascades is home to many species of animals and plants, so be sure to respect their natural habitat. Keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter, and never feed them or attempt to touch them. Also, take care to leave no trace by packing out all trash, including food wrappers and other waste.

4. Wear appropriate clothing. In the summer months, it can be hot and sunny on your hike to Blue Lake. Make sure to wear lightweight clothing that covers your skin and helps keep you cool, as well as a hat or sunglasses for protection from the sun. In the winter months, wear layers that will keep you warm and dry.

Liberty Bell Mountain
Liberty Bell Mountain

5. Stay hydrated and nourished. Bring plenty of water with you to stay hydrated during your hike. Eating snacks throughout the day can also help keep your energy levels up. Bring snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and fruit that are easy to eat on the go.

Mt. Baker
Mt. Baker is one of the most prominent sights in the North Cascades

Camping at Blue Lake

The North Cascades are home to one of the most breathtaking sights in Washington— Blue Lake. Situated in a lush forest, the lake is a paradise for hikers and campers alike.

The hike to Blue Lake is an easy three-mile trek that is full of amazing views and plenty of nature. The lake itself is situated at the base of Glacier Peak, providing spectacular scenery.

For those looking to stay overnight, there are a few great campsites located just off the trailhead. The sites offer plenty of flat ground and plenty of shade from the trees. There's also a few small fire pits for those wanting to make campfires.

Once you reach the lake, you can camp directly at the edge of the lake, provided you use a backpacking stove for cooking. The best way to enjoy this peaceful spot is to set up a tent and spend the night soaking up the starry sky.

Can you camp at Blue Lake? No, you can't camp at Blue Lake anymore!

To Do Near Blue Lake

The North Cascades Highway is a stunning drive and a great way to get to Blue Lake. The area around Blue Lake is packed with trails, lakes, and mountains.

If you’re looking for a great day hike, consider taking the nearby Maple Pass Loop trail. This 7.2-mile loop takes you up to the summit of Maple Pass, with gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys and lakes. The trail is lined with wildflowers in the summer and has plenty of chances for wildlife spotting along the way.

Mt. Shuksan
The incredible Mt. Shuksan near Mt. Baker

The nearby Rainy Lake Trail is also a great option for hikers. This 11-mile round-trip trail leads up to a stunning high alpine lake surrounded by jagged peaks. There are plenty of options for more ambitious hikers as well, including nearby Mount Logan and Hozomeen Mountain.

For those who want something more low-key, there are plenty of beautiful lakes near Blue Lake that are perfect for a picnic or some fishing. These include Pass Creek Lake, Fish Creek, and Cougar Lakes. You might also want to check out the hike to Wing and Lewis Lakes from Rainy Pass Trailhead. The nearby Thornton Lake is another fantastic option for those who love North Cascade alpine lakes.

Blue Lake itself is an incredible destination to explore. Its bright blue waters contrast against the evergreen trees and rugged peaks in the background. Whether you’re looking for an easy day hike or an ambitious summit attempt, the area near Blue Lake has something for everyone.

You Might Also Like


bottom of page