In the northern aspect of the state of Washington lies a wilderness area that is challenging, interesting and amazing in its diversity and unique climate, as well as the many things to do in North Cascades National Park.
Jutting mountain peaks and plummeting valleys, overlaid by waterfalls, hiking trails and more than 300 glaciers are part and parcel of the attractions of the North Cascades.
Three parks together comprise the park service here, including North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas.
The three together are united by a continuous running land mass called the Stephen Mather Wilderness, and hold more than the average amount of outdoor adventures.
The visitor here can run the gamut of adventure from canoeing the rivers and lakes, to hiking the vast 400 miles of trails that wind through mountains and lake areas, to camping, mountaineering, climbing, fishing, animal watching… honestly the possibilities are endless.
Although it is in fact a wilderness area, and you should be guided by your own abilities when undertaking the activities here, there is something for the outdoors person of nearly every ability, including accessible trails and driving adventures for those who have physical limitations.
The hiking in the area is second to none, and does include some accessible trails, a few short strolls designed to allow you access to the magnificent scenery, up to and including some very steep, physically grueling trails that will leave your legs burning and your heart pumping from the exertion.
In order to navigate some of the amazingly steep mountains, there are over four hundred miles of trails, many of which follow the forested bottoms of the valley, while others begin this way and will then use a switchback to climb up to a steep mountain pass or move along a mountain ridge.
The attractions of North Cascades Park can’t be over emphasized with more than 300 glaciers which attach themselves to the peaks and horns of the mountains around you, and over 120 alpine lakes, surrounded by meadows that lie full of blooming color in the summertime, and a blanket of snow in the late fall and winter.
Deep valleys and gorges underlay it all, covered by a blanket of old trees and multiple layers of dense green undergrowth that offer a lush background to the whole area.
There are over two million acres of land here, with more than ninety percent of it designated as wilderness areas,
may of which are hiked or snowshoed the year over.
The best and most easily accomplished hiking in the North Cascades will of course be about April through October, with the summer months of June, July and August offer the driest time to hike here.
In many cases, the higher elevations are going to be snow covered in to and including July, so remember to plan your trip accordingly.
Winter in the Cascades is by no means mild, so those who want to use the playground that is nature here should be well prepared for the weather that will challenge even the most seasoned hiker and intrepid outdoors person.
With more than 130 campsites of the back country type available to you, you can satisfy your urge to challenge nature by winter camping, or spend a few peaceful days gazing out across the flower filled meadows in the summer time.
(” All backcountry sites require a free permit available at ranger stations. Permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.”)
One of the most diverse and amazing ecosystems on earth, the North Cascades are home to animals and plants that will keep you snapping with that camera.
Wolves, Bear, wolverines, and birds of all varieties including the eagles are just a few of the things you’re going to see if you are fortunate and silent, while the less elusive animals, such as the squirrel are going to keep you laughing with their antics on a regular basis.
The North Cascades are home not just to the Black Bear, but also to the Grizzly as well as many other types of wildlife. Do plan for those inclusions by taking along bear bells and having what you need to store your foods if you are back country camping here.
The multiple lakes will have the fishermen and woman busy from dawn to dusk, while the boater can kayak or canoe to their hearts content or challenge themselves with a trip down some of the less placid waters. The boating on some of the lakes here is pleasant and silent, while the waters which flow in the canyons may be white water variety.
While you are planning your adventure, don’t forget to include some safety training. The North Cascades Park Service is wilderness area. There are inherent dangers in trekking into any wilderness, and you should plan for those eventualities by taking along a few things such as a signal mirror, a whistle, and be prepared for meeting up with a bear or other animal by reading ahead and knowing how to handle yourself or the situation should it arise.
Some of the areas here are remote, and the weather is unstable during part of the year. Don’t overestimate your abilities or those of your party. Plan for your own safety by making sure that you have the equipment that you’re going to need to meet any eventuality.
North Cascades National Park Visitor Center
206 386-4495 ext.11
Across the Skagit River from the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) near milepost 120 and the town of Newhalem. Adjacent to Newhalem Creek Campground.
Access to the North Cascades and Ross Lake National Recreation Area is off of State Route (SR) 20, which connects to I-5 at Burlington. Branch routes lead to Baker Lake (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) and the Cascade River. In winter SR 20 is closed at Washington Pass beyond Ross Lake. There is no car access to the Stehekin Valley and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take Highway 2 to the town of Chelan where passenger ferry and plane access is available. There is also trail access off of SR 20. The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia.