Skagit River Loop– Where eagles dine


Quick Facts:

Location: Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades Scenic Highway

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 1.8 miles

Elevation gain: 100 feet

Contact: NCNP Visitors Center Sedro-Woolley

Green Trails Map: Marblemount, WA- No. 47

Guidebook: Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd edition (Mountaineers Books)

Notes: dogs must be leashed, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Access: From Marblemount, head 14.0 miles east on SR 20 to Newhalem, turning right on access road to Newhalem Campground and North Cascade Visitor Center. Continue straight ahead for .9 mile to visitor center and trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, historic, snow-free winter hike, 

The campground and visitors center closes for the winter. And during this time there’s not much traffic on SR 20. And in the nearby little Seattle City Light company town of Newhalem? The tour buses are gone and the streets are pretty deserted. Not much is happening in these parts right now—except for the hundreds of bald eagles coming down from Alaska to spend the next several months!

And the easy Skagit River Loop Trail is a perfect way to see some of these majestic birds. The trail is wide and a pleasure to walk and perfect for hikers of all ages and abilities. And during the winter months it doesn’t get too much hiker traffic. So, plan on spending a peaceful afternoon along the river watching for eagles and other wonders of nature.

From the visitor center begin a slow descent of 75 feet or so to the nearly level river bottomland flush with cedars and firs; and adorned in ferns and salal. In a .25 mile pass a side trail leading to one of campground loops. Soon afterward reach a major junction where the trail to the right heads to the campground. You’ll be returning straight ahead, so veer left through a pine barren descending a little more. Across a moist flat of mossy maples and yews, the Skagit River finally comes into view! Now enjoy sauntering along the river looking for otters, eagles, dippers, and salmon. Marvel at the towering ancient firs and cedars gracing the riverbanks. When it’s time to return, close the loop and retrace your steps back to the visitor center.

If you want to stretch your legs a little longer, there are some other great nature trails nearby.


For more detailed information (including maps) on this trail and 135 other hikes throughout the North Cascades; pick up a copy of my new and best selling Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd edition. 

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