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Slide Lake

North Cascades


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
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2.5 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 300 ft.
Highest Point: 3100 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

Slide Lake is a short but remote hike that samples a rugged slice of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Popular among anglers, the hour long drive up the single lane logging road deters crowds and ensures relative solitude. Magnificent old growth and a mountain lake with views toward snowy peaks are the reward.

Start by ascending through ancient forest with a fair amount of blowdown and lots of boulders. Roots and rocks require occasional attention to the tread, but the hiker's eyes will be drawn to the large trees that lay, sometimes smashed to pieces, upon the boulders.

The scene is rough and wild, but also eerie and quiet. Not so long ago the mountain above let loose a landslide that covered the valley floor. The pile of rubble dammed Otter Creek and created Slide Lake. The creek now runs silently underground, and is easily missed as the trail crosses its course at 0.4 mile.

After a short while the uphill grade moderates gently and the trail follows a twisted route among more boulders and prostrate trees. Everything here is covered in a lush carpet of moss that resembles melted cheese. Hemlock cones and sticks season the top layer, adding texture and crunch.

At 0.9 mile a sign marks the boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. A seasonal pond lies in a spacious backdrop capped by Snowking Mountain. In late summer the pond is dry and appears to be a circular meadow. The path follows the northern fringe of the opening, weaving among large boulders.

Back in deep forest, the trail passes through a labyrinth of downed trees before Slide Lake comes into view at 1.1 miles. Several paths descend to its shoreline, which fluctuates seasonally. In late summer the exposed lakebed is slick and muddy. A few very large rocks beckon the swimmer to jump in when the water is high and safe enough to do so.

The last good campsites sit at 1.25 miles, marking the end of the well-beaten path. A rough way trail winds along a further quarter mile to the head of the lake. Wide views can be enjoyed at the mouth of the inlet stream. Camping is also possible here, but better sites exist before the trail's end.


Slide Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.4265, -121.3692 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Slide Lake Trail (#635)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Green Trails No. 79 Snowking Mountain

Buy the Green Trails Snowking Mtn No. 79 map

Getting There

From Darrington drive 16 miles north on State Route 530 and turn right onto Forest Road 16, "Illabot Creek Road." Drive 20.5 miles to the Slide Lake Trailhead. The road is in generally good condition, although it is long and remote. Many curves limit visibility through the middle section, and one small rock slide at mile 13.8 may prohibit low clearance vehicles from passing.

At 20.5 miles from 530 is the trailhead with parking on the left. There is space for about eight vehicles. Illabot Creek Road ends just beyond the bridge. The trailhead and signpost are on the east side of the road next to Otter Creek. No bathrooms or facilities exist.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Slide Lake

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