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Independence and North Lakes

North Cascades


North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
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7.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 2200 ft.
Highest Point: 4950 ft.


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WTA worked here: 2019

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

This destination is all about the search for solitude in the often crazy and busy South Fork Stillaguamish River valley. The trail leads to not one, but two alpine lakes. The first, Independence, is less than a mile-long hike and makes for a great first backpack for kids. The second, more difficult to reach, is North Lake, an additional 2.2 miles up the trail.

The trail starts off with a series of short switchbacks in an old clearcut before turning gentle and meandering off into old-growth forest. The trail from here to Independence is short but rough with plenty of large roots, rock and mud to navigate as well as a few unnecessary and steep downs and ups. However, these bumps will soon be forgotten when you start glimpsing the lake. The magically blue lake sits in a steep and rugged little basin, its varied shoreline ripe for exploring.

The trail continues high above the water along the west side of the lake before descending to a marshy meadow at the north end. You can stop here or continue onto North Lake. The path to North Lake begins to switchback steeply to the northeast. You’ll know you are on the right track when you come upon the immense double-trunked Alaskan yellow cedar. It’s hard to walk by without pausing to ponder the tree, while you take a drink of water.

About a mile past Independence Lake, the first of several ridges is reached with views of Mount Baker and Three Fingers. Continue on past several tarns before reaching a second ridge with views of Glacier Peak. North Lake can be glimpsed in a basin 700 feet below.


Independence and North Lakes

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.1170, -121.5226 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway

Independence and North Lakes (#712)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Silverton No. 110

Getting There

From the Verlot Public Service Center (11 miles east of Granite Falls), travel east on the Mountain Loop Highway 15.0 miles. Turn left (north) on the Coal Lake Road #4060 and continue 4.8 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Independence and North Lakes

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