Visiting Picture Lake in Washington State (Tips & Photos)

It’s hard to deny that Picture Lake in Washington is an incredible sight. Located in northern Washington Picture Lake is about a 3 hour drive from Seattle. If you’re in the area visiting North Cascades National Park I’d recommend making the trip to Picture Lake; especially at sunset.

Once you make the drive up to Picture Lake it’s a really short walk off the road. Basically after parking you directly on the lake after a 1 minute walk.

In the post I’ll be going over some of my favorite tips for visiting Picture Lake along with photos from my visit.

Nooksack Falls

On the way to Picture Lake you can also stop at Nooksack Falls which is a quick detour off of Mt Baker highway. You can expect to add 20 minutes to the trip to stop at Nooksack.

Nooksack Falls in Washington State
Nooksack Falls

Visiting Picture Lake in Washington

The views as you drive up toward Mount Baker are stunning. Keep in mind most of the drive you won’t have cell reception. Once you near the top you’ll reach Picture Lake and have some cell service at the lake.

On my visit there was a $5 fee that is self-paid in a box near Picture Lake. If you have an American the Beautiful pass you don’t need to pay the fee though. I wish I knew this before going since it added a few minutes to drive to the pay box on the other side of Picture Lake.

View of the northern viewpoint from the southern viewpoint at Picture Lake in Washington
View of the northern viewpoint from the southern viewpoint

Parking is quite easy with room to pull off around the lake and enter the trails. It’s only a few minutes to walk to the viewpoints from the road. Luckily on my visit the area was practically empty.

The lake it self is quite small with a short trail system around it and two viewpoints. If you want to learn more about the trail you can find it on Washington’s Trails Association website. You can easily go between each viewpoint since they are only a minute walk apart. The views and reflections of the surrounding mountains are unreal as you explore the area. Especially when you get angles of Mount Shuksan.

Northern viewpoint at Picture Lake in Washington State
Northern viewpoint at Picture Lake

Keep in mind the southern viewpoint can get a little crowded. Even with 5 people near the edge it can be difficult to get a tripod in place. The northern viewpoint seemed to be less crowded but as you can see trees slightly obscure the view.

Picture Lake on Google Maps

Pictures of Picture Lake, Washington

Here are some of my photos from sunset at Picture Lake in Washington State.

If you’re a photographer and planning what to bring to Picture Lake I’d recommend a zoom lens (24-70mm) and a neutral density filter. I used my 10-stop ND filter for a few photos but wasn’t getting much cloud movement, but this could change depending on the day you visit. On my visit I primary used my Canon 15-35mm without a filter. There wasn’t any wind on my visit making the reflection perfect as well but if there are ripples in the water a neutral density filter will help.


I hope you enjoyed my short visit to Picture Lake in Washington State. I really was stunned by how peaceful and beautiful the area was for sunset. Plus it was such a short walk once you park to get to the iconic view seen in the photos. I’d really love to visit again in the fall for foliage or summer for wildflowers.

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