Trails for everyone, forever

Home Go Hiking Hiking Guide Sauk Lake

Night image with lookout - On Giving Tuesday 2021, the future of trails depends on you

link

Sauk Lake

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
View map below

Length

6.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2100 ft.
Highest Point: 5200 ft.

Rating

2.50 out of 5

(6 votes) Log in to rate
 
WTA worked here: 2014
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

This trail starts out as the Sauk Mountain trail, a steep, narrow, but an absolutely scenic hike.  Begin the hike by switch backing up the southwest side of the mountain, gaining views of Mount Baker and  the Skagit River as you go. Along with the views there are a wide variety of wildflowers in the open meadow.

Please stay on the trail. In places, it is eroded, but cutting the switchbacks erodes it further and makes it more dangerous. Once you reach the saddle at 1.3 miles, the trail heads northeast around the crags of Sauk Mountain. Shortly you will come to a junction. There may or may not be a sign for the lake here. Head right and downhill. Keep in mind you will have to gain all this elevation back on the way out!

At the turn, you can see the trail below you. The trail heads down a few switchbacks, then disappears from view in a grove of hemlock and subalpine fir before reappearing just above the lake. Follow the trail through a meadow of wildflowers. In this meadow, you'll see glacier lilies right after snowmelt, followed by mountain heather, Columbia lilies and finishing off with false hellebore and asters.

Listen for the whistling of marmots when you pass the boulder field. Watch for family groups hanging around on the top of the rocks. Can you find the large hole in the rocks on the right side of the trail?  It’s at the bottom of a large group of boulders, surely must be the grand entrance to their burrow!

When you reach the grove of trees, the trail flattens out a bit. Watch for a faint trail taking off to your right, that is the old abandoned trail that once came up from Highway 20. Some hikers with route-finding skills relish the challenge of finding this old trail, but unless this is your mission, stay on the main trail that veers to the left.

Out of the trees now, you can again see the lake, but you still have a ways to go.  The trail keeps switchbacking down, then skirts around the lake above a small boulder field. Even though overgrown, the trail can be seen and followed. If it’s wet, you will be glad of gaiters or rain pants in this section.

Climb just a little bit more and drop down to the marshy shoreline by the outlet stream. Bend down for a minute and look for the dainty flowers that love these marshy conditions: valerian, false asphodel, saxifrage and the many species of bog loving orchids. Please use the already established social trails, don’t walk on the flowers!

You can now see the ridgeline where you turned off,  wave to the hikers looking down on you from the junction. 

There are some nice lunch logs here and some camping spots on the hillside above the outlet stream. Please observe proper Leave No Trace camping practices, and don’t camp on the lakeshore. Unfortunately, some hikers who have visited here have not been as conscientious. Pack out what you can and leave the lake better than you found it.

 

Sauk Lake

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.5204, -121.6179 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Sauk Lake (#613.1)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

National Geographic North Cascades National Park

Buy the Green Trails Lake Shannon No. 46 map

Getting There

Take Highway 530 to Darrington from I-5. It will ‘T’ with the Mountain Loop Highway at Darrington. Take a left at the T to stay on 530. Follow 530 north until it ends at Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway.

Take a left (west) onto Highway 20 toward Burlington. Turn right on the Sauk Mountain Road (FS 1030) at 1.7 miles, just past Rockport State Park. There is a small yellow sign just before the turnoff. Stay on this road, ignoring any little side roads, for 7.9 miles to the end and trailhead.

The road is steep with potholes, but driveable with care for regular cars. There is room for about 25 cars in the circle parking, and some room along the road below. There is a cute little A frame outhouse.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

You can improve or add to this guidebook entry

Sauk Lake

23 Trip Reports

Hiked here recently?

Submit a trip report!
 
Trip Reports