Hiking Maple Pass in the North Cascade Mountains

A perfect introduction to the breathtaking North Cascades.
Maple Pass Loop, Lake Ann
Maple Pass Loop, Lake Ann

Washington's Maple Pass Loop hiking trail is a 7-mile route that starts in an old-growth forest of fir, hemlock, and spruce; traverses meadows resplendent with glacier lilies and Indian paintbrush; circles the sparkling green jewel of Lake Ann and ascends to Maple Pass (6,600 feet) for stunning views of snow-clad Glacier Peak and a 360-degree panorama of the “American Alps.”

The Maple Pass hike is simply one in a string of striking destinations along SR 20, better known as the North Cascades Scenic Highway, a route that winds through North Cascades National Park passing glaciers, mountain lakes, steep cliffs, spectacular waterfalls and the occasional deer. In addition to the scenery, the drive includes many quirky places to stop along the way.

From the west, take SR 20 to Sedro-Woolley, a good place to stock up on supplies, coffee and gas. During winter, bald eagles flock to the jade-green Skagit River to feast on the salmon that return to spawn every year. Alpine Adventures offers float tours for an up-close view.

The scenery keeps improving as you drive east. Stop at the Newhalem Skagit Tour Office (500 Newhalem St) just outside Rockport between June and September to arrange a tour of the nearby dams. Just up the road, the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center offers canoe tours of Diablo Lake as well as classes in everything from corvid behavior to nature writing.

Continue 38 miles east of Newhalem to the Rainy Pass picnic area to access the trailhead to Maple Pass. Try not to hum “The Sound of Music” as you ascend the trail, taking in the high, splendid wilds of North Cascades National Park.

Snowfall and avalanches close a 37-mile portion of the 140-mile road every year, from about mid-November to late April. Be sure to check road conditions before hitting the trail.

Find more hiking trails in Washington.

—Nicholas O’Connell

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