North Cascades National Park, WA

The North Cascades mountain range is also known as the American Alps. This national park was established in 1968. It has the coolest entrance sign, a mock up snowed mountain range. A favorite picture stop.

We first visited this park in 2019 with a one night stay. That was too brief as we had to prioritize the hikes and sights. This next trip, we set aside three nights, and lucked out with lodgings at the Colonial Creek South Campground. Yes, we camped as its biggest advantage was the proximity to the sights and trails. Thus, we were able to catch sun rises, sun sets at the various overlook points without having 45-60 min drives from Marblemount (where we lodged previously).

Diablo Lake

The Diablo Lake is a magnificent feature of the Park. The overlook point is 2-3 mins drive from Colonial Creek Campground! There’s ample parking and several picnic tables at this overlook point. There’s a natural ledge area off to the side where two parties were taking engagement-style pictures of couples. The lake has the wonderful glacial melt colors.

Same viewpoint, at night.

We were able to view the stars as it was a clear [second] night. We were the only ones up here just past 8pm. [This night photo was actually taken on the second night, but it’s placed here so that one can easily compare with the preceding daylight photo.]

Here are more pictures of Diablo Lake from various viewpoints.

Cloud formations were more prominent with this filter effect
Looking towards the central range that was in earlier pictures
The day before wildfire ash and smoke drifted into the NP

The Colonial Creek South Campground has a public parking area. A number of trailheads were also located here – e.g. Thunder Creek trailhead. The lake shore at the public area was stony/rocky with sparse plots of dirt ground. Folks were enjoying the water on their various watercrafts.

We lucked out as our camping lot was a lot away from the restrooms. While there were no showers in this campground, there were sinks and flushing toilets. There were minimal bugs/insects but our citronella candle definitely kept the bugs away.

Temperatures dropped below the 50s, which was lower than we expected in the week after Labor Weekend (9/6/22 – 9/8/22). A vivid dream which involved my mother and a freezing situation work me up. That was probably a subconscious prompt to get the portable heater going for a bit to warm up.

The next morning on Day 2 was an easy one, visiting the various hydroelectric dams (there are three of them on the Skagit River). We opted for relatively flat hikes and getting the sights in.

Given the relatively light day, we decided to catch the evening and sunset views. In particular, we drove to Washington Pass.

Path leading to the overlook for Washington Pass.
The camera captures this as gold, ala Yosemite’s “firefall.”

The mountain range really appeared to be adorned with a golden crown!

A less direct sunlight falling on mountain face.
Highway 20 below, this will lead to Mazama.

As mentioned earlier, we drove to Diablo Lake overlook in the night, to star gaze a bit, ponder the vastness of the universe, and prayed.

It did not get any warmer on the second night. We added the picnic blanket. A decision was made to go back on Day 3, skipping our third night. This turned out to be a serendipitous decision as the ash smoke had rolled in from the wildfires.

We nixed the plan for a more strenuous hike to Maple Pass Loop trail (7.4 miles) and opted for Blue Lake (4.6 miles).

Highway 20, heading from Diablo Lake towards Washington Pass

It was quite smoky at the Blue Lake trailhead parking. We started the hike up and midway the air cleared a bit. Hurray, ash particles were heavier and were sinking down to the ground!

Solitary tree trunk lit up
Trail to Blue Lake

Catching the morning sun breaking into the trees was cool. We were about to walk into a meadow.

Meadow partway up the trail to Blue Lake
Trail splits
Liberty Bell and the Spires mountain range (popular for rock climbers!)
Blue Lake, more ash was beginning to blow in.
Zoomed in of Blue Lake tree lined shore

After a tranquil 30 mins or so with the whole lake to ourselves (as a group of 4 left 5 mins after we arrived), we descended. Ash specks were beginning to accumulate on our bags/jackets.

The Great Outdoors truly is a gift.

Author: Ben & Joon

Residents in the great Pacific North West. Living life as it happens, learning our purpose and trail blazing our own paths. Namaste.

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