Ladder Creek Falls is a very interesting nature trail located at Newhalem in the Ross Creek Area of North Cascades National Park. This is one of the most unique nature trails we’ve walked, and we highly recommend that you visit at night. This is because the waterfall is lit with electricity from the nearby powerplant.
The Gorge Powerhouse in Newhalem was one of the first built in the northwest. Many people were fascinated by the electricity that was produced, and the owner wanted to show off just what this new technology could do. So he built a trail behind the powerhouse to a natural waterfall. Then he piped in music, created special lighting, and trucked people out all the way from Seattle to see the incredible show. Though it is true that the idea is very dated, and most people like to see waterfalls in their natural state, it is unique to visit this waterfall. If you visit after dark, you can still see the waterfall lit like it was a hundred years ago.
The Gorge Powerhouse is a beautiful historic building. It is rather large for this area, and its beauty is enhanced by the gorgeous jade water below. Park in the small lot facing the building, and walk to the right of the parking lot and across the bridge. Interpretive signs tell about the history of the powerhouse and the trail that was created as a tourist attraction. You can still walk the old boardwalks and visit the now defunct gardens and fountains.
Ladder Creek Falls and Gardens
There are many turns and routes on this trail, so it is impossible to give a distance, but “short” is a good description of the path. There is more climbing of stairs to contend with than actual distance, and distance really depends on how thoroughly you look around. Still, you can’t get lost on this walk. You are behind the powerhouse the entire time.
The waterfall is pretty, even in the daylight. It is hard to get a great picture, but the waterfall is surrounded by tons of green moss, which makes it even more beautiful. We weren’t able to visit in the evening due to scheduling, but if you are able to visit in the evening, definitely take the chance.
There are many little trails that meander around behind the powerhouse. The trails walk along where the old gardens used to be. They are mostly overgrown, but we enjoyed imaging what this area would have looked like in its prime.
If you are driving along Hwy 20 in the Ross Lake Area, be sure to make Ladder Creek Falls and the Gorge Powerhouse one of your stops along the way! For other ideas in the North Cascades National park, check out our post about this National park.