Distance: 7.6 miles
Type: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft.
Highest Point: 1950 ft.
Duration: ~4 hr
Located in the North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
I left Chelan Lake, WA about 8am and traveled westbound on Hwy 20 along the North Cascades Scenic Byway.
After experiencing Washington Pass and the awesome views of the surrounding peaks like Liberty Bell Mountain and the lime green glacial waters of Ross and Diablo Lakes.
While at the lookout I felt like I was soon to be out of the steep mountain part of the highway and didn't want it to end. I noticed a small road on the north side of Diablo Lake, near the ferry dock for the Ross Lake Resort.
It's a single lane road across the Diablo Lake dam. I drove to the end of the short road and parked near the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center which is currently closed due to the pandemic.
I'd just planned to put my feet in the cool waters and just relax. I saw the Diablo Lake Trailhead across the parking lot but didn't think much; I'd just did that awesome hike to Crater Lake, WA the day before and wasn't sure if my legs and feet were ready for another long hike.
I checked out the map on the sign in the parking lot and assumed the trail was just a short one around the Learning Center. I looked down at my Keens and decided I'd better throw on my hiking boots and properly gear up (backpack with clothes, food, first aid, water & hiking poles).
I hopped on the trail and felt glad to have make the choice to hike. After a just 20 mins it was clear the trail wasn't a quickie but was steadily gain altitude. My quads and calves seemed up to the challenge.
After climbing out the the somewhat dense forest the trail reaches the power lines and clearing. There's a side trail going down, down down this ridge to the lake. There were no signs that this was part of the Diablo Trail so I waited while a hiker that had been a few hundred yards ahead of me made his descent.
Another hiker arrived at the clearing and looked as well. I asked if this was part of a loop and she said she didn't know. We concurred that staying in the trees and heading toward Ross Lake. Before heading out she complimented my straw hat and made a remark about the sun & sunscreen. I commented that it was preferable to lathering sunscreen. She said she couldn't avoid that because she was fair skinned. I meant to point out that my shirt offered UV protection because of my tattoos but I think I might have offended her. Not my intention.
I made sure to walk slowly at first to give this hiker a cushion and maintain the feeling of solitude with nature. The trail reaches some amazing catwalks which feature views of the mountains, Hwy 20, and Diablo Lake below.
Once you're able to see Ross Dam in the distance through a clearing in the trees, the trail starts to steadily drop down. I immediately started thinking about the return trip. The two recent hikes I'd done on my trip were virtually all trails that went up and up and up. This one appeared to be a bell curve.
The "end" of the trail was a small cul de sac with a decent view of the dam. I didn't take the switchbacks down to the dam. After reviewing the map, the trail continues down to the dam, the up and over to Ross Lake. It was already 3 or 3:30p and I had about an hour hike back.
I passed a family of 6 or 7 who asked "how much further?". I advised that the "viewpoint" was a good turn around spot.
Weird observation as I was on the return route: I encountered a kid by himself and heard a parent scolding him for getting too far ahead (and out of their view). She warned him that a mountain lion was going to attack him and they'd never know what happened to him. WTF? Horrible thing to tell to a kid to squash any interest in the outdoors. Another woman and small child were with them. I couldn't tell for sure but it looked like the other parent was a bit horrified by this woman's claim. Clearly projecting her own (irrational) fears.