Just under three miles east of New Halem on the 20, there is a large parking area on the right (south) side of the road. Pull into the parking area before you cross the bridge, and there are several pretty awesome things to see. From this spot you’ll be able to see Gorge Creek Falls and Gorge Dam in North Cascades National Park.
Gorge Creek Falls
First, you have the opportunity to walk on the bridge. This bridge has walkways on both sides of the road. You’ll need to walk to the end of the parking lot and decide which side you’d like to explore. We crossed the road and walked on the north side, and then returned on the south side. The walk is quite beautiful, but if you are afraid of heights, it may not be for you. This is because you are walking on a metal grate suspended high above the river. You can look right down between your toes into the Gorge below.
The great thing about walking on the bridge, though, is that it provides the best view of the Gorge Creek Falls. This waterfall is located on the north side of the bridge. Some folks were stopping there cars on the bridge to snap a quick photo, but this seemed unwise since it is a blind corner. It is much nicer to walk out and take your photos.
Gorge Dam Overlook
Back in the parking lot, there is a nice trail to overlook the dam. There are two options on this trail. First, you can walk the paved path to the overlook. This trail would be great for wheels, and it does have an access ramp. The walk to the overlook is very short, it probably wouldn’t register 0.1 miles. There is a quick stop to enjoy the beautiful water, and then walk a little further to the dam overlook. When you arrive, there is even a bench to have a seat and look out over the dam.
From the overlook, you can extend your hike further, but not too much further. An unpaved trail turns to the right (west) and leads along the rim of the canyon. If you follow this trail, which is maybe a quarter mile, it loops back around to the parking lot. This distance probably qualifies as a hike! There isn’t a whole lot to see along the way, but the trail does lead through the thick forest of the northern cascades, so the flora is rich and lush.
The most stunning thing about this overlook is not the height, nor the dam, but the color of the water. Since this river is glacier fed, it is a brilliant jade green color. We were really surprised at just how green it was!
This is definitely worth a 30 minute stop on your drive through North Cascades National Park. Make sure to pull over for Gorge Creek Falls and Gorge Dam.