Hidden Lake Lookout─Savor stunning views from an historic fire lookout teetering on a lofty precipitous knoll

The view of Hidden Lake from the lookout is breathtaking!

The view of Hidden Lake from the lookout is breathtaking!

Quick Facts

Location: Cascade River Road

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,300 feet

Green Trails Maps: Diablo, WA-No. 48; Cascade Pass, WA-No. 80

Access: From Marblemount, head east on the Cascade River Road for 9.7 miles turning left onto FR 1540 (Sibley Creek Road). Follow FR 1540 for 4.7 miles to its terminus and trailhead.

Note: Northwest Forest Pass required.

Contact: Mount Baker Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs

One of the finest hikes in the Cascades, the trail to Hidden Lake Lookout grants continuous sensory-overload. Sprawling meadows bursting with wildflowers, granite slabs and boulders laced with heather, glistening snowfields birthing tumbling waters, alpine nooks providing refuge to ptarmigans and pipits, an historic fire lookout, and views—stunning mouth-gaping views of a serrated skyline of snow, ice, and rock. It doesn’t get any better than this on the trail! And September is the best time to do this hike as dangerous snowfields usually obstruct the way earlier in the season.

Starting in an old cut, the trail soon enters virgin forest and begins to steeply climb. At about one mile leave the forested canopy behind for an avalanche chute. Cross the East Fork of Sibley Creek and commence climbing traversing a steep side slope often brushy and overgrown. Then re-cross the East Fork Sibley Creek and angle south stopping to admire Mount Baker hovering in the western sky. Now across heather slopes punctuated with shiny granite slabs, enjoy increasing views and an alpine wonderland intensifying in beauty.

At 3.0 miles a potential hazard may exist. Early season or some years all summer long, a treacherously steep snow gully may be present requiring an ice axe for passage. If the way is safe, proceed across more heather meadows and snowfields.

At 4.2 miles attain a 6,600-foot saddle between Hidden Lake Peak’s 7,088-foot true summit and the 6,890-foot knoll housing the lookout. Hidden Lake, a glorious sparkling backcountry body of water is right below. Located within the North Cascades National Park (dogs prohibited; permits required for camping), it’s a rough and tumble drop of 800-feet through talus to reach it. You may just want to enjoy its beauty from above, lovingly framed by a backdrop of impressive North Cascade Summits.

To reach the lookout, follow the trail right for .3 mile climbing 300 feet up steep slopes and over ledge and possibly snow (use caution). Wow! The views! From Rainier to Baker and every peak, valley, and ridge between—it’s one of the finest in the Cascades. Take time to appreciate the lookout too. Built in 1931, it was restored by Fred T. Darvill, of the Skagit Alpine Club back in 1961. A tireless advocate for the North Cascade National Park, it was one of Fred’s early guidebooks that first introduced me to this region back in 1985.

For more information on this hike and 124 other great hikes, consult my Day Hiking North Cascades book.

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