Diablo Lake (Skagit County)

Beyond Our Borders

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There’s nothing I love more than long winding scenic drives through the mountains of Washington. In Snohomish County, that of course takes me down the Mountain Loop Highway between Darrington and Granite Falls. But, there are more mountains to be seen than just those found in Snohomish County, ones we are only just beginning to explore.

Last year, our travels took us along the Skagit Valley portion of Highway 20 (North Cascades Hwy). We explored the towns of Sedro Woolley and Concrete, discovered the amazing homemade ice cream of Cascadian Farm, then found ourselves falling off the grid, driving deeper and deeper into the mountains until we found the most beautiful lake I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of lakes.

Getting there is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Downtown Arlington, via Hwy 530 which will take you through Darrington and still allow you to stop for Ice Cream in Rockport. The alternative would be about a 2 hour drive from Dowtown Arlington, via Hwy 9 or I5, which will allow you to check out Sedro Woolley and Concrete along the way. Depending on what you want to do at the lake, don’t forget those times are only one way and plan accordingly. Also, important to know, the last gas stations are in Marblemount (30 Minutes/22 Miles away).

As you approach Diablo Lake there are a couple of options:

(1) You can turn off at Diablo Dam and see the lake up close an personal, as well as hike (the Diablo Lake Trail is just over 7 miles round trip), swim, and kayak. We stopped to check out both the dam, which is pretty cool (pictured right) and the swimming area (area shown in above photo and next two that follow)

(2) You can turn off at the Colonial Creek Campground and again see the lake up close and personal, swim, and kayak. Thunder Knob Trail is here as well and will take you to a higher view point of the lake.

(3) You can turn off at Diablo Vista Point which gives you a viewpoint of the lake from high above it, as well as the surrounding mountains . We stopped here as well (shown in two photos at end of article), and it is definitely worth traveling a bit further on Highway 20 to get to it.

Regardless of where you stop, Diablo Lake is a sight to see for sure. It’s blue green water is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, created by floating powder ground from rocks by the surrounding glaciers (very scientific, I know). Monte Cristo Lake along the Mountain Loop Highway is the only other lake I’ve seen with that kind of coloring, and it is far smaller. By that, I mean Diablo Lake is massive, encompassing 1,422 square miles.

It’s size can be a bit daunting. We saw folks out on kayak’s that looked like little ants from the shore and from up above at the vista point. I don’t think you will be catching us in that lake, which is 320 feet deep at it’s center (nope, no thank you). Now a boat, maybe. I’m not big on natural bodies of water thanks to a near drowning incident when I was a kid, in case you are wondering why you don’t see us out on water more. Kayaking on Lake Stevens and the occasional rafting on the Sauk River with Adventure Cascades is more than enough water play for me.

If you are braver than me though, go for it, and let me know all about it. For those that aren’t though, the views and experience you will get for your drive time is more than worth it. The drive itself, not to mention all of the other sights and all the local places you can eat along the way, plays almost as large of a role in that as the lake. It is a trip you won’t regret making.

If you are making it a day trip, here are some things to check out:

– If you are going the Darrington route, stop at Burger Barn for lunch.

– If you are going the I5/Hwy 9 way, stop at Cascade Burgers/5B’s Bakery in Concrete, and drive through town to see it’s ghost town goodness.

– Either way, stop at Cascadian Farm’s stand for ice cream. Seriously, do it, and get the blueberry (berries grown on the farm) and vanilla.

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