It is easy to pass by interpretive pullouts – I am quite guilty of that – when I am out on adventures.It is the tourist trap, after all.
My oldest was never into reading the signs that talk about nature, history, animals and so on, but the younger boys? They haven’t met a sign yet they didn’t read. I have learned to pull over and enjoy the well thought out view points, the leg stretching, and the ample fresh air. And sometimes (pretty much every time….) I learn something new.
On the way up Highway 20 in the North Cascades, not long after the company town of Newhalem (Seattle City Light), about 2 miles, there is a pullout for the Gorge Lake Trail and of the Gorge Dam on the right side of the road. The parking lot is ample, and just a few feet down the highway is another parking lot, after crossing the metal bridge. Newhalem is mostly shut down this year, so take this as a sign to get out of the car here.
The parking lot is home to pit toilets and is fee free to park at. Get out and walk up the paved trail. The paved parts are wheelchair and stroller friendly, but with the short elevation gain, may need assistance.
The last time I had stopped here was I think 2001 or 2002, when my oldest was tiny. We saw our first Pika, hiding in the rocks along the hike back then. The area hasn’t changed much in all those years. Just busier with humans now.
A short side path leads to the first views of Gorge Lake and to the side, a waterfall near the bridge. The hills of the river valley are mostly dead, burnt in the 2015 wildfire that ripped through the forest in that hot and dry summer.
Continue up to the main overlook to get the long view of Gorge Lake.
The trail winds along the flat top to yet another viewpoint, above the Dam. The paved trail ends here, and an unpaved trail winds downhill to a better overlook of the Dam. Return as you came. Savor the quiet at the last overlook, a ridge blocks the highway noise.