HWY 20 is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington and is commonly referred to as the North Cascades Highway. The North Cascades Highway is home to some of the most incredible hiking, backpacking and camping that the state has to offer. Probably one of the best parts of HWY 20 is the distance from Seattle. From Seattle to Washington Pass, you're looking at about a 3.5-4 hour drive. This keeps The North Cascades Highway and the surrounding hikes relatively unpopulated during peak season. One of the most amazing hikes that you will find along HWY 20 is the Heather - Maple Pass Loop.
The Heather - Maple Pass Loop is an absolute gem. This 7.5 mile loop hike has pretty much something for everyone; forests, meadows covered in wildflowers, 360 degree views of the North Cascades and two alpine lakes. You can hike the loop counterclockwise, or clockwise. If you want a steeper ascent, take the clockwise route. If you want a more mellow ascent and don't mind the steeper descent, take the counterclockwise route. During our trip, we took the trail counterclockwise and would probably do it again.
The hike begins at the Rainy Pass Trailhead. From there, you begin heading up forested switchbacks. In about 1.25 miles, you will find the trailhead for Lake Ann. It's about a .6 mile round trip to Lake Ann and it's definitely worth it.
On your return from Lake Ann, take a left at the main trailhead and begin the traverse up towards Heather Pass. You will walk through beautiful rocky meadows covered with wildflowers as you approach the pass. Once on the ridge, you will have views of Lake Ann and the North Cascades National Park.
Along the ridge towards Maple Pass, you will find mountain views of Corteo, Frisco, Goode, Stiletto, Black Peak and many more.
As you reach the top and begin your descent, you'll get views of another stunning Alpine lake. The trail continues down back into the forest until you reached a paved ADA trail. Take a left here and you'll find the parking lot in a half mile.