Monogram Lake Trail
In the mountain, stillness surges up to explore its own height; In the lake, movement stands still to contemplate its own depth.
The Monogram Lake Trail is a steep, scenic day hike or overnight backpack to a small cirque lake ringed by glaciated peaks and subalpine meadows. The first several miles of trail are steep, forested switchbacks. Miles of toil are rewarded when the trail enters the subalpine meadows before and surrounding Monogram Lake. Black bears frequent this area as well. A side trip may be taken through subalpine meadows to a historic US Forest Service lookout station on Lookout Mountain. See the detailed trail description for more information on this area.
Backcountry Camping: A backcountry permit is required for all overnight stays. Permits are limited. There is a designated camp with two small sites located on the shore of Monogram Lake—please be sure to pitch your tent in the designated area, not in the meadows. Cross-country camping is allowed at least one mile away from the lake.
Access: Take State Route 20 to Marblemount, then turn onto the Cascade River Road. Follow this road for 7 miles (11 km), then look for a small parking pullout on the right. The signed trail ascends sharply on the left.
For more information on current trail and road conditions, permits, regulations and trip planning please see our Wilderness Trip Planner.
Detailed Trail Description
The trail climbs steeply, switchbacking up a forested ridge between the two creeks, at one point briefly breaking into an avalanche opening with lush growth including false hellebore and stinging nettles (often overhanging the trail). While digging out the long pants or gaiters, look back for views of Eldorado Peak. There is a trail junction at 2.8 miles (4.5 km). The left branch leads to Lookout Mountain (USFS) and the right to Monogram Lake. The Monogram Lake Trail enters North Cascades National Park and soon opens into subalpine meadows, climbs to a 5400' (1650 m) ridge, and descends to the 4900' (1490 m) tarn lake.
Monogram Lake usually is frozen until July. It is one of many small, jewel-like high lakes scattered throughout the North Cascade Mountains, legacies of past alpine glaciation. Most of the lakes are naturally fish-free due to their high elevation, deep freezing, and lack of spawning beds. Some, including Monogram, have been artificially stocked. Introduced fish greatly change the chemistry and biology of otherwise pristine lakes. Activities associated with fishing and camping around these high lakes can cause serious degradation. Please follow regulations and tread lightly on these delicate and beautiful places!
Monogram Lake is the hub of a subalpine community including plants such as pink mountain heather, huckleberry, glacier lilies, and animals such as black bear, blacktail deer, and a multitude of insects, birds, and small mammals. All the residents fit into an interdependent web which can easily be upset by human influences. Please store food and all scented items, such as toiletries, securely out of the reach of wildlife.