Another VERY wet hike! Somehow we hit the wettest day of the week on this one. On Saturday November 5th the 40+ Slackers headed to North and Independence Lakes in the North Cascades off of the Mountain Loop Highway. I have no idea what the trail traffic would normally be like on a decent day but on this particular day we saw 3 other people, so very light. According to the WTA site, this is a good place for solitude, so I think it is generally not too crowded.
Here are the stats according to WTA: 7.0 miles round trip, 2200 feet elevation gain, high point 4950 feet.
Parking pass required: NW Forest Pass
The road going up was a little rough, although one of our drivers with a sedan made it okay. I think on a clear day there may be some nice views from the road, but we did not see them.
For more information and driving directions see: www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/independence-and-north-lakes
The trail to Independence lake was pretty muddy (but it was a very wet day) and a bit rooty and rocky with some ups and downs. Don’t forget that you will have a little uphill on the way back. During this time of year don’t forget your rain gear, layers and a set of dry clothes for the drive home. The lake was very pretty despite the rain, had it been a nice day I may have taken a longer pause here. There was a slippery log jam to cross which was a little tricky, but not too bad. The trail continues around the west side of the lake then descends to a marshy meadow at the north end.
From here you continue on to North Lake. From this point forward the trail gets pretty steep, many switchbacks. There is a huge double-trunked Alaskan Cedar which is a good place to take a break, drink some water and capture a photo before continuing on.
After the cedar there were a couple of waterfall crossings nothing major and one harder rocky section to go up. There was one intersection that we came up with a sign for Helena Ridge Trail. Go Right here. (On a side note, there were some interesting mushrooms on the trail, one was on the tree with the sign to the Helena Ridge Trail.)
We had a little bit of trouble with the trail from here due to the wet day. You had to keep an eye out for the trail direction in a couple of places and there were a couple of blow downs to get around (passable). We ended up at a couple of Tarn’s Not sure if one of these was North Lake, but I don’t think it was. According to WTA, “about a mile past Independence Lake, the first of several ridges is reached with views of Mount Baker and Three Fingers. Continue on past several tarns before reaching a second ridge with views of Glacier Peak. North Lake can be glimpsed in a basin 700 feet below.” We were pretty wet and cold at this point so decided to call this our ending point.