Best known for its spectacular fall colors and easy access, Blue Lake is a classic hike in Washington's North Cascades. Just 2.2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain from Highway 20, this short hike is a great way to break up the long drive between eastern and western Washington.
Begin hiking through a forest and over boardwalks to a big, open meadow at 0.9 miles. During summer, this meadow is covered in wildflowers. If you are visiting in September or October, watch for larches; their needles turn golden yellow in the fall. Continue along the trail to re-enter the forest, cross a stream, and arrive at the lake shore within an hour of parking your car.
A large boulder on Blue Lake's west side makes for the perfect picnic perch. From here, check out the Liberty Bell Group towering overhead. Usually viewed from the north at the Washington Pass Overlook, Liberty Bell and the Early Winters Spires are visible over Blue Lake from the southwest. Nearby, a larch arches over the lake for another irresistible North Cascade photo-op. Hiking trails run along both sides of the lake, but none encircle it. Head out along one of these paths to find solitude, and perhaps some wildlife, among the mountains.