Having been to Yoho National Park in Canada I found this peak to be the Washington State equivalent of Cathedral Mountain. In the same way, each mountain has a very steep glacially carved face and capture much more attention than the surrounding peaks.
The mountain is primarily a solid slab of granite 7720 feet (2353 m) tall and has class 5 rock near its summit. It is very easily seen as you will have to basically go around it in driving over Washington Pass. Cathedral Mountain in Canada my be taller 10,462 ft (3189 m) but this Liberty Bell Mountain is certainly the more photogenic in my opinion.
Gorge Creek falls is very easily viewed. From the parking area for Gorge Creek viewpoint one must simply find their way across the crosswalk and down the sidewalk to the bridge.
The Canyon beneath the bridge is very deep and only a grate separates you from the long fall below. It’s one of those strange feelings to walk this bridge while looking down.
The short trail that leads to the viewpoint of Gorge Lake Dam also allows you a view of a much smaller waterfall that descends into Gorge Creek.
The falls themselves are no less than 242 feet (73 m) from top to bottom and generate quite a large amount of noise. The upper tier is difficult to see from the road since it is blocked by trees and then by a rock face. The falls are certainly worth a stop though.
Washington Pass is the highest point you will drive by on US 20 at 5477ft (1669m) which is second highest elevation pass in the state of Washington (behind Sherman Pass at 5575ft (1699m)).
It has an overlook which is said to have wheelchair access, picnic tables and a bathroom. I found it to be covered in about 4 feet (1+m) of snow when I visited in mid May. It should be more accessible later in the year. From this location their are great close up views of Liberty Bell Mountain and the small creek that runs through the area.
The Blue Lake Trail is also close by and will take you 0.7 miles (1km) up a fairly steep hike to a high altitude lake. The pictures I’ve seen from that hike make it look really beautiful. I did not have the equipment to hike it during my trip as their was still a lot of snow on the ground.
Glacially carved mountains and valleys are the reason for the beauty of the North Cascades. The Ross lake area has many stories to tell from that era.
The water contained in the lake used to flow entirely north into the Frasier River of Canada. As the last ice age sent a glacier flowing south into the area it blocked the flow of that river and built a glacially dammed lake which eventually got deep enough to crest over a ridge and flow in a different direction toward Puget Sound.
The climate during this period was such that the tree line was at least 3,300ft (1,000m) lower than it is today and the average July temperature was about 7 degrees F (4 C) cooler than today. The water cut deeply enough into the ridge during that period that after that glacier receded the Skagit River continued to flow west rather than north.
The only road access to Ross Lake is by the Silver-Skagit road, a gravel road which begins in British Columbia. Since I was driving a rental car and was pressed for time, I did not do this. But there are some nice views of Ross Lake from the pullout along Hwy 20.
Ross Lake is the largest of the three bodies of water which were created by construdting dams in the Skagit river. The Ross Lake Recreation area is the entry point for the scenic portion of the Cascades highway. The Ross Lake complex includes Ross Lake, Diablo Lake and Gorge Lake.
Mt Shuksan is the highest peak, 9131 feet/2783 meters, within the NCNP and it is its most recognizable peak. I have seen pictures of this peak on walls around the world - though most would have no idea as the peak's name. The awesome western and northern sides of the peak are maybe best seen from outside the Park, from a vantage point known as Picture Lake - near the Mt Baker Ski Area and the end of WA 542 which comes west from the city of Bellingham up the Nooksack River valley. It is from this road at Austin Pass, a pretty trail takes off to Lake Ann, which lies at the feet of a climbing classic - the Fisher Chimneys, a long and complicated route up through the rocks, hanging glaciers and finally to the peak itself.
Instead of dropping down to the Thornton Lakes, turn right at the 4900 foot ridge on the Thornton Lakes trail, onto an unmarked, but very visible trail that goes steeply up the ridge to the top of the 5964 foot summit of Trapper Peak. It is a steep trail and you will have added another 600 feet of elevation to a possible Thornton Lake trek (the gain there is 4900 feet), but it is worth every foot of elevation gain. Atop, you are atop a world of true wild, alpine glory. Nearby are the twin peaks of Mt Triumph and Mt Despair - the first climbers of Triumph followed five mountain goats up towards the top, enduring moments of bombardment by the goats as they rolled rocks down on the climbers from above. To the east, is the incredible ripsawed crags of the Pickett Range separated from Trapper Peak by the great gulf of the canyon of Goodall Creek.
There are many wonderous dayhikes in the North Cascades National Park - none very easy. This is no exception. The hike climbs to three lakes lying in a basin at the foot of Mt Triumph. To camp at the lakes, you need to get a backcountry permit from the National Park headquarters in nearby Newhalem. The trail is 9.5 miles roundtrip and gains almost 5000 feet. It is a rugged trail that will have you sweating. When you gain the 4900 foot level, you cross over a small ridge where you can look down on the lakes and across to Mt Triumph. The lakes begin 400 feet lower. Camping and fishing are reputed to be poor. Ice still remains on the middle lake until mid-July; the upper lake til mid-August.
Atop Sourdough's 5985 foot/1824 meter summit is a fire lookout which dates to 1933 - having replaced an earlier lookout built in 1917. The lookout and others on nearby peaks were summer homes for Jack Kerouac and friends in times gone by. Views stretch in all directions. To the east, Ruby Mountain blast straight up above Ross Lake. Ross Lake, itself, disappears in the north that is Canada.
From the ridge of Sourdough - the mountain's name coming from earlier mining days - is a grand view over the the spires of the Pickett Range, off to the northwest. In fact, one of the main approaches to this most wild among wild ranges begins from atop the ridge you travel, but that is a long and strenuous journey. A beginning to even wilder adventures to follow. We will stay on the trail and continue east to the summit of Sourdough.
This is a strenuous dayhike out of the little company town of Diablo - a town devoted to the upkeep of dams and powerhouses of Seattle City Light at both Diablo and Ross Dams of the Skagit River. There are lots of switchbacks on this trail - a lot more than the 33 you have at Cascade Pass - and unlike the trail at Cascade Pass, the switchbacks here never seem to flatten out. You gain 3000 feet/909 meters in 2.5 miles. Then the trail ameliorates a bit, only gaining an additional 2000 feet/606 meters in the final four miles. What is worse is that there is nothing really to see as you grind your way up through the switchbacks deep in forest - until you finally reach the ridge after 2.5 miles. Then the party begins. You have grand views over the Skagit Valley below and straight up the vallye of Thunder Creek with its glacial seas up high, surrounded by peaks like Logan, Sahale and Forbidden. Much of the South Unit of the Park can be seen from here.
Off the glacier you have a short third class rock scramble on easy rock slabs to the 8680 foot/2646 meter top - about four hours up from Cascade Pass. eIncredible views is an understatement. The oft-used simile of being in an ocean of peaks is apropos. The view to the northeast - Boston Peak over the Ripsaw Ridge to Buckner - is the same view as you find on the NPS's Park brochure. This peak is far lower than Washington's highest peak - and it is easier to get up here - but the alpine experience here is light years beyond what Rainier and its endless slog can give you. This is what alpinism is all about.
As incredible as the views are on the Sahale Arm, they get even better further up on a climb of Sahale Peak, itself. The trail on the Arm peters out among the rocks of the terminal moraine of Sahale Glacier, a fairly flat-lying glacier just south of the summit. Wander through the rocks and out across the glacier - there are some crevasses, but you have to look hard to find them. Every few steps, the views enlarge further.
An 'arm' is a ridge of a mountain, in this case, the southwestern ridge off Sahale Peak. The old prospector's trail leading north out of Cascade Pass is a little more serious about gaining elevation - 2200 feet/667 meters being gained in four miles. The pain is allieviated by the alpine grandeur that continues to build as you ascend. The grand sweep of the glacial Cascade River valley to the west and the Stehekin valley to the southeast; the mountain wall of Mixup Peak and Johannesburg Mountain to the south; the awesome ridge extending from Eldorado peak over to Forbidden and Boston in the norhtwest; and Sahale rising dramatically high above Doubtful Lake, right in front of you.
What make Sahale Arm so special, is that besides the classic long views are the grassy, flower-filled meadows you find yourself walking through now that you are above the timberline. Marmots frolic throughout the Arm. You can camp up atop the Arm next to the Sahale Glacier - there is an open-air outhouse among the rocks up here - but you need a backcountry permit from the visitors center in Newhalem.