Maple Pass Loops is one of the most beautiful day hikes in Washington State. It has a little bit of everything: evergreen forest, wildflowers, lakes and vast pass views of North Cascades National Park.
The hike is actually not inside of the National Park, but you hike right up against the North Cascades National Park border and the views of the park are just stunning from the Maple Pass.
Maple PAss Loop Hiking Stats
Distance: 7.2-miles; add 1 mile if you take a side trail to Lake Ann
Elevation Gain: 2200 ft.
Trailhead: Rainy Pass Picnic Area – 35 miles east from Winthrop on North Cascades Scenic Highway
Facilities: Available at the trailhead
Parking: Parking is available at the trailhead however it fills up quickly and you may have to park on the North Cascades Scenic Highway
When to Go: June through October, depending on weather conditions and the opening of Highway 20
Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise
This hike is a loop and can be hiked in either direction.
If you hike Maple Pass Loop counter-clockwise, the climb to the pass is gradual and you get to enjoy amazing views of Lake Ann. On the way back to the parking lot the descent is very steep and very tough on the knees.
If you hike Maple Pass Loop clockwise, the climb to the pass is intense, but the hard part is done at the beginning of the hike and the descent is gradual with rewarding views of Lake Ann and the North Cascades National Park.
We chose to hike the Maple Pass Loop clockwise direction. I (Dana) have bad knees and they were already strained from the previous day’s hike and didn’t want to take more risks.
Most hikers choose to hike Maple Pass Loop counterclockwise, and we had to mitigate walking past each other frequently. However, since we started late in the day we almost had the entire descent to ourselves.
Either way works, so don’t stress too much over this decision. Just pick one.
Getting to the Trailhead to Maple Pass Loop
Maple Pass Loop trailhead is located at the Rainy Pass Picnic Area of Highway 20. The parking lot fills up quickly and if you do not start early in the morning, you may have to park on the side of Highway 20.
The restrooms are available at the parking lot to use before starting the hike.
The entrance fee to the park is $5. Make sure you fill out the one-day pass information, insert the money in the envelope and leave it in the donation box.
If hiking in a counterclockwise direction, the trailhead is right behind the Self Service Pay Station with the sign stating Maple Pass Tr. #740.
If hiking in a clockwise direction, follow the sign to Rainy Lake Tr. #310 and stay on the paved trail for approximately 0.4-miles until seeing another sign for Maple Pass Tr. #740.
Hiking the Maple Pass Loop
Starting in the clockwise direction, the first 1.5-miles are steep through the wooded area.
The trail was very dry and dusty, and using hiking poles helped us from sliding back. Once out of the wooded area, you will get the first glimpse of Rainy Lake.
From here on out the views are vast and plentiful but the climb does not get any easier. At approximately the 1.75-mile mark you will start getting views of Lake Ann on your right. To the Maple Pass, the trail switchbacks through the field full of wildflowers.
Once at the Maple Pass, take a longer break or lunch to enjoy the 360 degrees of amazing views. We picked up delicious sandwiches at Rocking Horse Bakery in town and enjoyed them at the pass.
It can be very windy up here, and I suggest bringing a windbreaker or fleece jacket to cover yourself while enjoying the views.
The descent is filled with even more beautiful views of not just snow-capped peaks but the jewels of the hike, the stunning Lake Ann. There is a side trail that takes you to the lake, it only adds 1 mile to the total hike and approximately 100 ft. of elevation gain.
Once back at the parking lot, you can add a short hike to Rainy Lake (total of 2 miles) and dip your tired toes in the water.
Tips for the Best Experience
Know the road status before you go. There is only one way through the North Cascades National Park and road closures, or construction are common. Fully understanding this before setting off on the road will save you a lot of heartaches.
Leave No Trace. Pack out what you bring into the park.
Wear hiking shoes. The trail is rocky, it can also be muddy or dry and dusty depending on the time of the year and proper footwear is crucial.
Hiking poles were crucial for us. They help with big steep steps you have to take going up and save the knees on the way down.
Sun protection is a must. Once out of the wooded area there is little to no shade and it is important to have sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and other clothing as needed to protect you.
Water and snacks. Bring enough water and food for the entire hike, there are no water filling stations along the way.
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