The North Cascades Highway produces some of the best hiking and sights to see in Washington state, hands down. The towering, snow capped mountains, wildlife, rugged terrain and abundance of stops and trails to explore go, and go and go. The North Cascades captures adventure for everyone. From a big part of the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), to even the small, bridge built loop of Happy Creek Trail (0.3 miles long).
Happy Creek Loop trail is located roughly 14 miles, 20 minutes after leaving New Halem, heading east, and is on the south side of the highway. It can be located less than a minute after the Ross Lake Resort parking lot. Coming from the west and heading east, it will be on the right side of the road and as you climb the slight hill. It is also accompanied by a sign to clearly mark the location. The parking lot is plenty large enough for a handful of cars and the road curves around to make a perfect pass through lane if you are pulling a trailer or driving a motorhome. There are really no limits for any traveler. Another great perk of this location is an outhouse at the beginning of the trail which allows for a nice bathroom break whether you use the trail or not.
My family and I love stopping here. It is perfect for little kids and is even wheelchair accessible. More than half of the loop is actually a bridge, slightly off the ground and constructed of wood. The other half of the trail is smoothed out and a wide patch of small gravel, the loop winds through towering cedars and firs — yew wood trees can even be spotted through the wall or ride. Along a good chunk of the bridge, the creek can be admired. About halfway through the loop, where the hiking trail breaks off, if desired and is roughly 1.2 miles long. At this junction is a great spot to get off the bridge and find yourself down at the creek enjoying the cold, crisp water. Or the outdoorists can continue through the loop or trail and explore more of what the landscape has to offer. We have done both but only have actually spent a small amount of time on the actual trail that breaks off of the loop and as we went farther into the wilderness we were able to experience the sights, plants, and all around excitement of the woods in the North Cascades. Along the creek however is always a blast! We jump across the rocks, identify trees, skip rocks, make big splashes and often dip our feet in just to cool down. There is so much to explore along the creek that keeps us all excited and sparks our adventurous side. With the kids, we find insects, different kinds of leaves, use sticks as swords and traverse the forest landscape.
This is an easy and highly enjoyable trail for all who get the chance to experience it. Hopefully the next time you make your way over the North Cascade Highway, whether heading east or west — that you can stop and experience Happy Creek. It is a must do on any Washington exploration adventure.