Hi travelers! My name is Kaitlyn and welcome to my article on the Maple Pass Trail of North Cascades National Park. I grew up in Rochester, New York. But these days, when people ask me where I’m from, I tell them that I travel full time. I live in a 25-foot Airstream with my husband and my Australian Shepherd, Scout. We drive around the US in search of adventure.
I’m a graphic artist and own and operate my own business from the road. I love the freedom and flexibility that business ownership awards me – it allows me to be more spontaneous and have more fun! I have always sought out adventure in my life – whether it’s through traveling, hiking, skiing, scuba diving, biking, bungee jumping: anything thrilling really.
My Experience Hiking the Maple Pass Trail
The Maple Pass Trail was one of several must-do hikes I had on my list during last year’s summer in the Pacific Northwest. We almost didn’t do the hike because we had a limited number of days at North Cascades and we chose to hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail over the weekend.
That meant we had to tackle the seven miles of the Maple Pass Trail in an afternoon after work! I didn’t want to miss out on this hike, so we logged off early so we could make it happen. From start to finish, the hike took us approximately four hours (we didn’t do the additional side trip to Lake Ann).
We did the trail clockwise (most people go the other way) as we were concerned about time and we opted to take the steeper switchbacks up and the more gradual route down. We came flying out of the gate due to our late start, and I remember huffing on the way up with very few breaks. Once we realized we were doing alright on time, we were able to slow down and enjoy the scenery more towards the top and the descent.
Gorgeous Scenery on the Maple Pass Trail
There is tons of incredible scenery on the Maple Pass Trail. Most notable is Lake Ann: a turquoise lake that can be seen from several different angles on the hike. You also get big mountain views throughout the ridge line section, with many peaks visible including Corteo Peak and Black Peak. When we went in early August, there were lots of colorful wildflowers in bloom. There is also some wildlife, mostly birds and marmots.
Before we got towards the top of the trail, I was worried that I would be underwhelmed by the views because the hike we did the day before – Hidden Lake Overlook Trail – had some of the best views I had seen in my life. But I was not disappointed. The towering mountains in the background, the lake, the pine forest and the wildflowers altogether in one view is enough to take your breath away. I wanted to sit up there for hours.
A Moderately Difficult Hiking Trail
I rate the Maple Pass Trail as a 7 out of 10 in terms of a challenge (if you do it clockwise). Taking the steeper route up added to the challenge from a cardio perspective, but I think that this is easier from a technical standpoint because I would rather go up steep terrain rather than down.
I think that a less experienced hiker could do the Maple Pass Trail as long as they come prepared with good-quality hiking boots, drink plenty of water and take breaks along the way. If I can do the hike, you can do it too!
Best Memory from the Maple Pass Trail
There is one point on the trail where you stare down at the lake and it looks like a painting. The mountains are in the background and the lake is in the center surrounded by lush forests. There is a rock you can sit on that is surrounded by pink and white wildflowers. It was so perfect that it almost didn’t seem real. So I had to take a million photos to prove that it was!
Where to Stay when Hiking the Maple Pass Trail
We stayed at the Goodell Campground. The campsites are primitive (no hookups) but beautiful. We were able to get a riverside spot surrounded by giant trees and ferns. They have potable water and vault toilets. The campground is close to the North Cascades Visitor Center and the town of Newhalem. It even has several trails of its own. I 100% recommend it.
Responsible Hiking and Eco Tips
The Maple Pass Trail could benefit from all of us being more eco-conscious. Following Leave No Trace policies is important: don’t litter (including dog waste) and pick up trash on the trail. It’s also important not to disturb the wildlife. So stay on the trail and refrain from touching the plants. Lastly, follow fire safety laws when you get home from your hike. You might be craving a fireside beer but if the fire danger is high it’s not worth the risk.
Need to Know Before you Go
The most important thing to remember when going into larger day hikes like the Maple Pass Trail is: be safe and prepared. Sometimes hiking gear can be expensive but there are certain things that are worth the cost because they keep you safe. Invest in good hiking boots with traction – do not take on the Maple Pass Trail wearing sneakers or worn-down boots, because you will risk slipping on loose dirt or during steep inclines.
Also invest in a hiking backpack with a camelback. Staying hydrated on the trail is very important, and a backpack also allows you to bring along food, sun protection, bear spray and first aid supplies. The third thing that I would recommend investing in is a hiking app with GPS and offline maps.
Sometimes it can be easy to lose the trail and getting lost in any rugged environment can be extremely dangerous. I think that if you are fully prepared for a hike, you will be able to have fun and enjoy it the most!