10000 ft North Cascade Weekend Part I - Hidden Lake Touring

This year’s severe snow conditions have closed off many backcountry destinations. Meanwhile, Highway SR 20 opened on one of its historically earliest dates. After a much shorter resort season, I enjoyed a very busy weekend. According to my Google Maps notes, it seems that I had been to Hidden Lake Peak and the lookout a long time ago, but I can’t remember any details.

The length and elevation gain of the Hidden Lake Peak route were relatively moderate—roughly 7 miles and 4,000 feet, so fortunately, no alpine start was needed for a one-day trip from Seattle.

Driving north, the view to the right featured the morning mist accumulating in the Snohomish Valley. Far in the distance, Mount Pilchuck was prominent to the east. After turning right towards Darrington, Whitehorse Mountain loomed next to the town.

After crossing the Marblemount Bridge, we headed towards the center of the North Cascades. The last time I was here was probably during an attempt to climb Eldorado Peak. My list of destinations definitely grows much faster than my ability to check them off.

It was mid-April, and the unpaved road was snow-free almost up to the Hidden Lake trailhead. In a day or two, the trailhead would be completely free of snow. Naturally, the approach took about an hour before we began to skin up.”

After another hour or two, we arrived at the ridge of Hidden Lake Peak, approximately 6,200 feet in elevation. Before heading up to the summit, there was a bit of drama when a friend accidentally dropped one of his skis. The ski brake wasn’t released or leashed, and it shot down into the gully, disappearing from sight. Just when we thought we might have to end our day early, someone surprisingly found it and carried it back up! We were incredibly lucky to have someone find and return the ski.

Having retrieved the ski, we didn’t need to give up our summit plans and continued to hike up. The next 1,000 feet of elevation gain was much more straightforward. Eventually, we summited Hidden Lake Peak. The view was gorgeous, and the hidden lake, now fully unveiled before us, was frozen.

The ride down mostly followed our ascent route, although we enjoyed some better turns on the upper part of the mountain. Due to the extreme heat, the snow became extremely dense after dropping below 6,000 feet. When we got back to the car, the snowpack had significantly retreated from our morning footprint.

This time, we did not visit the lookout. The route to the lookout was a bit further from the summit route. We saw a group planning to stay there, which might be my next plan. The alpine glow and the cozy hut are definitely worth a trip!