Max slope angle
45+ Degrees
Primary aspect
?
Vertical descent
5,500.00 ft (1,676.40 m)
Distance
13.00 mi (20.92 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Hidden Lake Lookout has everything you're looking for in a backcountry skiing adventure: great skiing, amazing views, and a warm and dry place to end the day. The lookout gets no more than a few dozen visitors during the winter, so you're likely to have the place to yourself mid-week and you might end up sharing the lookout with another group or two during the weekends. 

The lookout is first-come, first-served and free. Be ready to put in a full day climbing and route finding to get there, however; the winter route can be tough to follow and the flagging can be sparse. The winter route climbs more than 5,000 feet and navigates through dangerous avalanche terrain. Be wary of taking the summer route as this goes up a steep draw that leaves you exposed to avalanches.  

There is skiing in every direction from the lookout. The southwest side offers some mellow runs, while the northeast side of the lookout holds some steep lines that feed into Hidden Lake.  

During an average snow year you'll find yourself parking down at Sibley Creek Road and hiking up NF-1540. NF-1540 isn't plowed and can be dangerous to drive with snow/ice on the road. After hiking up NF-1540 for approximately 3.5 miles look for flagging on the uphill (right) side of the road. The winter route follows a steep ridge for 2 miles before reaching the tree line. From here, you'll see the southernmost Hidden Lake Peak, while the lookout will be hard to see from this distance. Work your way southeast to gain the saddle just north of Hidden Lake Peak. From here, traverse at the base of the steep slope until you hit the ridge on the south side of Hidden Lake. Gain the ridge and follow it up west to Hidden Lake Lookout. 

Logistics + Planning

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Pros

Great views. Remote. Great skiing.

Cons

Route finding necessary. Exposure. No wood stove in Lookout.

Trailhead Elevation

1,500.00 ft (457.20 m)

Features

Shelters

Typically multi-day

No

Shuttle required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park
Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park
Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park

Comments

02/12/2018
2 miles from the trailhead was as far as the Toyota Tacoma would take us. The snow on the road that early in the morning icy enough to pull your car in directions you don’t want it to go when the road is only 12 feet wide. We decided to get an early start and ended up being the first group starting the trail at 7AM just after first morning light. After weighing our options we decided the weather was good and we started early enough to try a route neither of us have tried before. Pat got a GPS route from a skier that had done the hike a few weeks earlier using the Gaia app on his iPhone, isn’t technology great? We kept a map just in case but didn’t end up needing it due to our GPS giving us perfect signal the entire time. About a mile before the trailhead we started heading straight up through the trees. This route was great because, even though it’s steeper than the normal winter route, it’s more straightforward and cuts out some mileage. Our legs kept us pumping through the dense forest up to about 4800 ft where we decided to strap on the splitboards and continue ascending. Skiable snow starts at about 4200 ft as of right now but it was rock hard first thing in the morning. After getting above the trees at around noon a snack break was long overdue and we decided the view of Hidden Lake Peak was a good picnic spot. It was an incredible day, not a single cloud in the sky overhead and no sign of bad weather moving in. We got to the saddle shortly after and debated our options, a high traverse of the saddle and risking some cornices falling on us or a low traverse and adding another 30 minutes but having a much safer time. Avi concern was low for the day but we still tread lightly since the saddle is very seldomly touched during the winter. So we split skied as far as we could and rounded the ridge to finish our last part of the climb to the objective. We had to switch from split to A-frame and back a couple more times before we could strap in finally for the last part of the ascent. It was about 3PM when we finally reached the lookout with plenty of time to chill and settle in before sunset, the entire place to ourselves, the bluest of skies above us and the most beautiful view in the North Cascades within grasp. I love this place. I fired up the Jetboil and we restocked our water supplies with freshly melted powpow. As soon as the sun dipped over the Cascades we grabbed our Sony’s and started shooting every angle of the mountain range physically possible. The sky was on fire, I’ve never seen those shades of pink, purple and orange in such an incredible ensemble. A view like that will humble you unlike any other experience in life. We checked our photos and got some more stoke on the incredible sunset shots we took and then went to bed immediately. It was 20F in the cabin but our full ski get-ups, some fresh socks and our 30degree mummy bags kept us warm enough to pass out as soon as we hit the bed. And yes, there is a two person bed inside the lookout, maybe 3 if you’re feeling frisky. Anyways nature called me at about 8:30PM so I slapped my boots back on stumbled outside for a quick whiz. As I peered out into the darkness the sight of 5 headlamps stunned me. What are they doing? It’s 3 hours after sunset and they just traversed the sketchiest part of the tour with headlamps. I beamed my 350 lumen headlamp straight at them and strobed it until it caught their attention and signaled back. So we left a light on to lead their way and I hopped back into my bag to wait for our new guests. The first dude rolled in shortly after, thank God they aren’t snowshoers. The group of 5 skiers and splitboarders were from British Columbia and did the Hidden Lake tour for their 3 day weekend. Needless to say we made some new friends that night, passing around the Fireball and boxed wine they so kindly hauled up the mountain and sharing our stories from the day. After a good nights rest we woke up to sunrise, boiled down some more snow and strapped back in. Said our goodbyes to the new homies and headed back down the icy slope back to the saddle. We hit a few patches of powder on the way down and decided to get a few shots of pow slashes with the breadth of the Cascades in the background. The skies were as clear as the day before even though the weather predictions called for 70% chance of precipitaion. It made this trip about as perfect as it could be for being so early in the season still. The descent was so awesome, we had untracked powder until the trees got too dense to even ski. I loved our route for the ascent but for the descent I’d say stick with the normal winter route, it’s much less dense tree skiing, only thing you have to worry about is not skiing past the trail back to the trailhead. To be honest the snow in the trees was awful. That early in the morning it was much too crunchy to enjoy but we leafed down back as far as we could, A-framed one last time and walked the remainder of the way back to the truck, ingesting everything that had just happened with some distance between us.
Such an amazing hike! It would have been even greater if I could had spent the night up there. Living in Washington DC area, we thought 9 miles would have been an easy cake! We definitely should have "trained" a little more :) Thank you for sharing!
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