A stone’s throw away from Seattle, the ecological heart of the Cascades beckons. North Cascades National Park is wilder and more extensive than its Washington cousins. Set between damp conditions in the west and recurring fires in the east, the Park is an alpine landscape reeling from Earth’s changing climate. It stars jagged peaks crowned by hundreds of glaciers, impressive cascades in thickly forested valleys, broad unpolluted lakes, and a diversity of wildlife.
The other two units of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex contain more visitor facilities and are more frequented by visitors. The remoteness, ruggedness, and wildness of the North Cascades National Park lure backpackers, hikers, and mountaineers looking to experience the untamed American Wilderness. Highway 20 and more than 400 miles of trails give the more casual visitors access to lush forests and dramatic views of the mountains, often referred to as the American Alps.
History of North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park has a long geological, archeological and human history. A geological theory proposes the origins of the larger Cascade Range to have resulted from a series of islands smashing into the North American continent about a hundred million years ago. The crumbling, folding, and erosion that followed led to the creation of the cascades five or six million years ago.
Archeological inventory has shown evidence of human history that goes back more than 8,500 years. More than 260 prehistoric sites have been identified even in the most remote and rugged areas of the Park. They suggest that the North Cascades made significant contributions to the Northwest Coast Indian economies.
More than a thousand Native American Skagits resided in the area before white explorers arrived in the late 18th Century. Other Native tribes lived in the area, culling their needs from the forest and its waterways.
By the 1850s mineral, prospectors had already entered the North Cascades regions. Early miners were hampered by the difficult terrain, short working seasons, lack of financial investment, and low ore quantities. Miners were responsible for the first infrastructural developments in the backcountry. They built roads, rail, bridges, and trails. The ruggedness of the terrain discouraged logging in the area.
The Washington Forest Reserve was set aside in 1897 to preserve the forest land in the North Cascades before the establishment of the Park in 1968.
This expansive wilderness area was set aside as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System for conservation, historical, educational, scenic, scientific, and recreational use. Park status of the North Cascades was the result of decades of petitions and lobbying by preservationists and activists for decades.
The Park’s natural beauty has inspired writers, poets, and artists for centuries, including Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, and Philip Whalen. It continues to inspire and benefit present and future generations.
The Best Time To Visit North Cascades National Park
The best time to visit North Cascades National Park is between April and September, especially during July and August when it is warmest. During this time, daytime temperatures range from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trails at higher elevations, however, remain covered in snow into early July. Summer temperatures can rise to 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Lake Chelan and Ross Lake, making them relatively tourist-heavy spots.
Rains arrive in the Northwest westerly from the Pacific in spring and fall. Summer has pleasant weather, but being a mountainous region, it can rain at any time. The eastern side of the North Cascades is warmer and drier than the western side.
In October, winter begins creeping up in the upper elevations and gets to the lower elevations in mid-November. It lasts until April necessitating lengthy regular closures of roads and trails. Few visit the Park in winter for winter sporting activities and adventures.
The ruggedness of the terrain, unpredictability of the weather, and limited infrastructure give the Park minimal human traffic, so avoiding congestion is not a challenge.
The northern side of the Park offers the most isolation. Stehekin and the Cascade Pass area enjoy the heaviest load of visitors all year, especially in July and August.
How Long to Stay
North Cascades is among the least visited national parks in the country. Experiencing its hidden beauty can be challenging, but worth it. There is a lot to see at the Park, but finding places to stay in the area and planning an itinerary can be difficult.
To enjoy hiking a few easy trails, see several beautiful lakes, take in scenic overlooks, and do more activities, you need to visit for more than one day.
A casual hiker on a budget can spend at least a day in the Park. Hidden Lake Peak and Cascade Pass on the western side are good examples of one-day hikes. An avid hiker can spend up to 5 days enjoying various activities in the Park.
Methow Valley on the eastern side of the Park is an excellent location to spend 4 to 5 days. It features several good dining and lodging options.
You cannot truly enjoy the wonders of North Cascades when using public transport or tour service. You need a personal car, rental car, or a campervan. Basing yourself in a nearby hotel is a good idea. To cut down on your daily drive time, you should also be open to camping at one of the superb campgrounds.
Getting from Seattle to North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a distance of 97 miles from Seattle. You can use a bus, shuttle, train, or plane to make the trip. Seattle-Tacoma International airport is 120 miles from North Cascades Visitor Center.
The Amtrak Cascades train arrives twice daily from Seattle to Mount Vernon station while the Empire Builder train arrives once a day. Several bus routes and transit systems service the gateway communities around the Park.
Due to limited public transportation systems, the best way to get to the Park from Seattle is using a private vehicle. From Seattle, take Highway 5 north. Leave I-5N at exit 208 and take the more scenic Route 530, which passes through Arlington and Darrington. The drive is relaxing and beautiful as the rolling, open farmlands give way to the mossy rainforest as you approach the North Cascades. Route 530 ends at Rockport and joins the North Cascades, which takes you to the Park.
Where to Stop on the Way
Driving the North Cascades Highway from Seattle to the North Cascades National Park is purely exciting. There are many stops to make before getting to the entrance of the Park.
Mount Vernon is a two-hour drive from Seattle and a short distance from North Cascades National Park. This is an excellent stop, especially in April, during the annual Tulip Festival Street Fair.
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121 | (+1) 703-780-2000 | Website
Cascadian Farm Roadside Stand
The Cascadian Farm Roadside Stand is located past the town of Rockport at the original Cascadian Farm site.
It is an excellent stop to take a break from the road trip and enjoy the surrounding scenery. This utterly charming stand offers fresh berries, homemade ice cream, and other organic treats.
55749 WA-20, Rockport, Wa 98283 | (360) 853-8173 | Website
The North Cascades Highway runs parallel to the Skagit River as it crosses the small logging town of Sedro-Woolley. It is a popular stop for a picnic and bird watching.
Washington 98284, USA | (360)-855-1661 | Website
Mablemount offers the last connection with civilization and the last chance to fill up your gas tank and stock up on food before entering the Park.
Take the opportunity to enjoy a grilled chicken sandwich or handmade pie at the Mablemount Diner before proceeding.
59831 State Route 20, Marblemount, WA 98267 | (360) 873-4150 | Website
Entering North Cascades National Park
Washington Route 20 is the primary access to the North Cascades National Park Complex. It is a calming drive along the beautiful banks of the Skagit River through Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
At Marblemount town, the Highway branches south to the 23-mile unpaved Cascade River Road that leads to the Cascade Pass.
State Route 542 and the Silver-Skagit Road are jump-off points to the northern regions of the Park. The 37-mile Silver-Skagit Road provides road access to the shores of Ross Lake while State Route 542 provides access to the northern picket range, Copper Ridge and Mount Shuksan.
Ferries, boats, seaplanes, and hiking trails from Highway 20 provide access to Stehekin.
Getting Around the Park
Most visitors get to the North Cascades National Park by car since public transportation options are limited. Very little of the National Park can be accessed directly by public transportation.
However, visitors can get to the Park’s gateway communities via local, regional, and national transit systems. Stehekin is accessible by ferry from Chelan town.
The 30-mile North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) is the primary access road that cuts across the Park. Park visitors use this beautiful winding road to explore different sections of the Park. Many trails branch off from this road. There are nearly 400 miles of trails from short scenic strolls to steep, arduous hikes that visitors use to get around the Park on foot or horseback.
Cyclists can get around the Park on mountain bikes. Bicycles are not permitted on trails. They are allowed on the roads that are open to public automobiles. Cyclists should be prepared for variable riding conditions.
They range from steep and heavily trafficked climbs on Highway 20 out of the Skagit gorge to quiet and leisurely in the lower Stehekin Valley. Cyclists are encouraged to be on the lookout for the Park’s variable weather patterns and carry the necessary tools for roadside repairs.
Hiking in North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades National Park is a hiker’s smorgasbord. It is the ideal place to take a stroll down to the waterfall or through the old-growth forest searching for birds and wildlife.
Long or short, low elevation or high, there is a trail to suit every mood, skill, and experience level. Backpackers and intrepid hikers ply the Park’s trails all year round.
April through October is the typical hiking season. The dry summer months of mid-June through September are the best time to hike in the Park. November through March, access to the trails is limited by impassable or closed roads. Higher elevation trails may remain snow-covered well into July and August.
Five Hikes in North Cascades National Park
While the below five hikes are in no way comprehensive to the hiking opportunities offered inside North Cascades National Park , these are definitely some of the most popular North Cascades National Park hiking options.
For a full breakdown of the ten best hikes in the park, please see our new guide Finding the 10 Best Hikes in North Cascades National Park
Cascade Pass Trail
A relative low grade, stunning views along its length, and the scenic Cascade River Road leading to the trailhead make the Cascade Pass Trail one of the most popular hiking trails in the Park.
The 3.7 mile Cascade Pass has a long human history. It was an important trade route for early fur traders and indigenous populations.
Hikers enjoy several impressive views along the trail, including spectacular panoramas of the Johannesburg ridgeline featuring the Cache Col Glacier sandwiched between Mixup Peak and Magic Mountain. Nearly 30 switchbacks within the trail’s first three miles provide relief from the steep Cascade Mountain terrain.
Fourth of July Pass
Hikers get to traverse the churning waters and deep forest that define the North Cascades’ mountainous landscape. There are two approaches to explore the fourth of July Pass.
The Panther Creek Trail follows the Panther Creek while the Thunder Creek Trail follows the Thunder Creek. Hikers can combine the two for an adventurous 12-mile hike by using the North Cascades Highway.
The Panther Creek Trail is shorter, but both gain a similar elevation of approximately 2,300 feet to reach the pass. Fourth of July Camp, located a mile west of the pass, is a much sought-after spot for its views of Snowfield Peak, Colonia Peak, and Neve Glacier.
Thornton Lake Trail
This trail leads to a subalpine lake with several opportunities to explore the area. The first 2.3 miles follow an old road grade through a brushy section that was a logging area in the 1960s.
New-growth comprises a natural mix of Pacific silver fir, Douglas fir, alder, cedar, and maples. The trail then climbs steadily through steep forested slopes before reaching meadows of huckleberry and heather.
From here, amazing views of Teebone Ridge, Mt. Triumph, and the Skagit Valley dominate. Hikers can take a scrabble route to Trapper Peak or follow the main route down a steep, often slippery, and muddy 6-mile descent to Thorton Lake.
Stetattle Creek Trail
The adventuresome Stetattle Creek Trail begins at the Diablo townsite. The first mile that follows the bank of Stetattle Creek is rugged and requires some rock scrambling.
Listen for the chittering winter wren and watch out for the water ouzel as you hike by the creek’s edge, carpeted by lush moss and ferns. The stream gives off blue-green hues when light refracts around tiny rock particles eroded from the mountain tops.
The trail goes through a mature forest inhabited by owls and deer before narrowing and crossing several streams, then dwindling to an end 3 miles from the trailhead.
Bridge Creek Trail
This segment of the Pacific Crest Trail follows the Bridge Creek down to its confluence with the Stehekin River. It connects to other trails and is excellent for stock rides.
The Bridge Creek Trail is the shortest and least strenuous hike to Stehekin, and it melts earlier than alternative trails. It is lined by colorful blooms of wildflowers in spring and early summer.
Patches of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine provide welcome shade in late season when it is hot and dry. Hikers using this trail can access Dagger Lake, McAlester Lake, and Rainbow Lake or branch off to the North Fork Trails.
Other Activities in North Cascades National Park
Unlike other stretches of the Cascades Range, the North Cascades does not receive significant visitation. This is because it lies in the largest wilderness in Washington State. Here human encroachment is limited, and grizzly bears and grey wolves still roam. This wild and remote landscape gives visitors an authentic wilderness experience.
Hiking the trails at the North Cascades National Park takes time and preparation. Most routes here are rugged, and they only attract outdoor enthusiasts. However, there are shorter, less rugged trails for nature lovers who want to experience wondrous sites and recreation. Besides hiking, North Cascades National Park provides an opportunity for a variety of other recreational activities.
5 Activities in North Cascades National Park
Horse Back Riding
North Cascades National Park provides numerous opportunities for horseback riding. There are several popular riding trails throughout the Park. Most of the trails in the Lake Chelan National Recreational Area are riding trails.
Pacific Crest Trail along Bridge Creek and several trails in the southeast of the Park are also popular riding trails.
Riding trails on the west side of the Park include the Big Beaver Trail, the Thunder Creek Trail, the East Bank Trail, and the west side of Ross Lake. In addition to horses, donkeys, mules, and Llamas are allowed on the stock trails. Some trails in the Park are closed to stock.
Many parts of the Park are accessible by bicycle. Cycling in North Cascades national park can be exhilarating and somewhat challenging.
Bicycles are allowed on roads open to vehicles but not on trails. Riding conditions can be relaxing or exigent, depending on the nature of the road.
Cycling routes include the North Cascades Highway, Stehekin Valley Road, Cascades River Road, SR 542, and several others.
Newhalem Creek Campground site A3 and Colonial Creek South site 115 are the two bicycle campground sites in the Park. Stehekin also offers camping options for cyclists. Cyclists are advised to plan for remoteness, changing road conditions, and elevation gains.
Motorboating, canoeing, and kayaking are popular water activities on Diablo Lake, Gorge Lake, Lake Chelan, and Ross Lakes. Launches and ramps are located on these lakes.
Lake Chelan and Ross and Diablo Lakes offer boat-in camping. Diablo and Gorge lakes do not offer boat rentals. The Ross Lake Resort operates a water taxi service and
Whitewater enthusiasts can enjoy rafting and kayaking at the Stehekin and Skagit rivers. Personal watercraft are not allowed at the Park. Waterskiing, tubing, or any water sporting activities that involve towing behind a boat are prohibited in the Park.
The water bodies in the Park are home to a variety of fish species. Freshwater trout, char, steelhead, cutthroat trout, and five salmon species can be found in the Skagit River.
Diablo, Gorge, and Ross Lakes are home to native rainbow trout. The Stehekin River has cutthroat and rainbow trout while Lake Chelan has trout, freshwater cod, and kokanee.
Fishing in the Park’s waters is subject to Washington State fishing regulations, and anyone who wants to fish is required to obtain a valid license before visiting. To protect spawning fish populations, compliance with fishing seasons, closures, catch limits, and gear restrictions are necessitated.
Turquoise blue water bodies and dramatic mountain peaks make North Cascades National Park a wonderful place to camp.
Campers can enjoythe grandeur of the great outdoors at any of theeasily accessible five campgrounds that are operated by the National Park Service within the park boundaries. They include the Newhalem Creek and Colonial Creek Campgrounds.
The Park also offers other unique overnight camping opportunities, including remote backcountry sites,roadside camps, lakeside sites, and boat-in campsites. Campers get to experience unique boat-in camping on Lake Chelan, Diablo, and Ross lakes. The twenty-five boat-in camps in the park complex offer seclusion, scenery, and still water for the ultimate camping experience.
The Best Hotels Near North Cascades National Park
The towns neighboring the North Cascades National Park provide some of the best hotel options for anyone looking for a place to rest before or after their visit. The neighboring old western town of Winthrop on the eastern flank of the mountain range features some of the best hotels near North Cascades. They range from historic hotels with a rustic appeal and modern amenities to family hotels with fun attractions like pet-friendly rooms and miniature golf.
For the full scoop, please see our comprehensive guide The 6 Best Hotels Near North Cascades National Park
Hotels across the border in British Columbia offer budget-friendly options. Several hotels here provide spacious rooms, first-class amenities, and beautiful surroundings at affordable rates.
If you are looking for a hotel offering quick access to the Park, consider the following options:
Mt Gardner Inn
Clean rooms and comfortable beds are the best selling points of Mt Gardner Inn. An incredible housekeeping staff with keen attention to detail provides fresh linens and maintains a safe and sanitized room for the guests.
The hotel is less than a mile from downtown Winthrop Washington.
611 State Rte 20, Winthrop, WA 98862 | (+1) 509-996-2000 | Website
Abby Creek Inn
This family-owned hotel located in Winthrop features over 60 guestrooms, a pool, and river access. Pet-friendly rooms are available, free continental breakfast is offered, and the hospitality is exceptional.
Visitors of the North Cascades National Park can relax in this hotel on the beautiful Methow Valley after an adventure on the trails, the lake, or the river.
1006 State Rte 20, Winthrop, WA 98862 | (+1) 509-996-3100 | Website
Harrison Beach Hotel
Harrison Beach Hotel islocated along the shore of the beautiful Harrison Lake in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.
It offers the wonder and majesty of the lake and the gorgeous Harrison Hot Springs 40 miles from the North Cascades National park. Room types include suites, pet-friendly and non-smoking rooms with all the modern amenities to guarantee comfort.
160 Esplanade Ave, Harrison Hot Springs, BC V0M 1K0 | (+1) 604-796-1111 | Website
Manning Park Hotel
Manning Park Hotel is a 4 season mountain resort located in the Gibson Pass Valley 26 miles from North Cascades National Park.
It offers a broad range of accommodation options from lodge rooms to chalets. Dining options at the hotel include a seasonal café, restaurant, and pub.
7500 Hwy 3, Manning Park, British Columbia V0X 1R0 | (+1) 604-668-5922 | Website
Coast Chilliwack Hotel
This hotel is located in downtown Chilliwack surrounded by the awe-inspiring natural beauty of river valleys and mountains.
It features superb Facilities equipped with all the amenities of modern life, including a hot tub and sauna. Guests are provided warm, friendly service.
45920 First Ave, Chilliwack, BC V2P 7K1 | (+1) 604-792-5552 | Website
Fairfield Inn and Suites
This upper-midscale hotel by Marriot Burlington is located 41 miles from the west entrance of North Cascades National Park.
It features a heated indoor pool, exercise room, and serves a free hot breakfast buffet.
9384 Old Hwy 99 N, Burlington, WA 98233 | (+1) 360-757-2717 | Website
This upper-midscale hotel by Marriot Burlington is located 41 miles from the west entrance of North Cascades National Park.
It features a heated indoor pool, exercise room, and serves a free hot breakfast buffet.
104 W Woodin Ave, Chelan, WA 98816 | (+1) 509-682-2561 | Website
Silver Bay Inn Resort
The hotel sits on a slip of land next to Lake Chelan. Its accommodations include a spacious timber cabin for four and the Riverview Room for two.
Guests have access to a broad range of amenities, including a waterside hot tub and cedar decks with picturesque water and mountain views.
10 Silver Bay Rd, Stehekin, WA 98852 | (+1) 509-670-0693 | Website
Freestone Inn is an upscale mountain retreat located in Mazama amid acres of forest at the heart of the historic Wilson Ranch.
It features spacious rooms, wood-paneled cabins, and suites enhanced with gas fireplaces and modern amenities. Rooms have patios or balconies overlooking Freestone Lake.
31 Early Winters Dr, Mazama, WA 98833 | (+1) 509-996-3906 | Website
Where To Eat At North Cascades National Park
Stehekin offers several dining options, but most of the North Cascades National Park offers few foodservice options in different areas. There are no eateries in most areas of the Park. Visitors are encouraged to stock up on food, snacks, and drinks before venturing into the Park. Most food services are available in the Park’s surrounding communities, which include Marblemount, Stehekin, and Concrete.
For visitor convenience, the National Park Service offers the names and phone numbers of the Park’s food businesses. Visitors can contact vendors directly to determine the details of the facilities and services provided, dates of operation, and current rates.
Top 5 Photo Spots In North Cascades National Park
The scenic overlooks, snow-capped mountain peaks, clear lakes, and meadows that display vibrant colors that vary seasonally make the North Cascades National Park a photographer’s paradise. Unfortunately, due to the landscape’s ruggedness and few easy access points, it’s only photographers willing to hike into the wild backcountry who get the best shots.
Whether you are using an SLR camera, point-and-shoot, or Smartphone, here are the top 5 photo spots in the Park to look out for:
North Cascades Highway
Washington State Route 20 cuts across North Cascades National Park, giving access to several iconic photo locations. A viewpoint a short stroll from Newhalem Visitor Center gives a distance view of the glacier-covered Picket Range.
As you cross the Gorge Creek on a Vertiginous grated bridge on the highway, its frothy waters can be photographed as they cascade 242 feet down a narrow gorge.
Further along, the highway lookout for the striking green-turquoise waters of George Lake before you get to a small tunnel. Less than a mile east of here, you’ll find an unmarked multi-tiered waterfall flanked by trees that turn yellow in autumn.
Stehekin provides several excellent photography opportunities. Take the “Lady of the Lake” Ferry through Chelan Lake and spend time in the upper deck, capturing images of the mountain scenery along the scenic route, which features layers of trees and rocks.
The Stehekin Valley Road provides lovely, whimsical scenes to photograph. Depending on the season, wildflowers blooms line the roadside.
The location between the steep close mountains makes it difficult to capture the sunrise and sunset. To capture the best shots during morning and evening photography at Stehekin Valley Road, walk to the Stehekin landing boat dock’s furthest part.
Sourdough Mountain Lookout
Sourdough Mountain lookout is an excellent photo spot. The 6.2-mile climb to the lookout has an elevation gain of more than 5000 ft before reaching the lush meadows, which are covered with wildflowers in summer.
The mountain lookout provides impressive views of the glacier-covered Pyramid Colonial, Davis, and Pinnacle Peaks.
From the Sourdough Mountain lookout, one can also spot Jack and Ruby mountains and the southern pickets. The striking green-turquoise waters of Diablo Lake can also be seen from this vantage point. At the summit, take photos of the old fire lookout, one of the oldest in the country.
The 312-ft Rainbow Falls offers an excellent opportunity for “silky water” photography. This fall, which cascades from Rainbow Creek above the Stehekin Floor, is one of the most popular natural destinations in the Stehekin Valley.
A short trail exists from the valley to an elevation gain that gives an excellent vantage point of the fall.
From the parking area, the trail leads past the enormous picnic table towards the two viewing areas. As you approach the falls, the cascading water is visible through the fragrant Ponderosa pines. The landing platform atop the switchbacks is an excellent spot to take photos.
Stehekin River Trail
The Stehekin River trail offers excellent photo locations along the mighty Stehekin River. Harlequin Campground is an ideal place to overnight before the hike.
This easy forested trail gives hikers a unique experience of the Stehekin Valley. Begin from Harlequin Bridge by taking a shot of the Stehekin River’s bubbly, turquoise water below.
From the bridge, continue on the wide gravel road past the Blackberry Creek’s airstrip to the historic Buckner homestead. Take beautiful shots of the mountains and large meadows across the river on the east side of the valley before continuing to Weaver’s point.
Parks And Forests Near North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is bisected into two districts by the Ross Lake National Recreational Area. Both districts are surrounded by several parks, forests, and wilderness areas. These include Skagit Valley Provincial Park, Mount-Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Wenatchee National Forest, Okanogan National Forest, and Lake Chelan National Recreational Area.
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest lies on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. It runs more than 140 miles from Mt Rainier National Park’s northern border to the Canadian border.
It covers potions of several counties, including Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish, Pierce, and King. Proximity to large populations and easy access roads makes this national forest one of the most visited in the country.
The forest features a web of trails that hikers use to explore the vast wilderness which features alpine lakes, spectacular meadows, and rivers. Visitors can also fish, camp, and enjoy wondrous views of the glaciated Mt Baker.
Okanogan National Forest
Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness comprise the 1.7 million acres Okanogan National Forest. The forest has a rugged landscape with high elevations and deep valleys. The highest point in the woods is the North Gardner Mountain peak at 8,974 feet.
Different altitudes support varying vegetation types. Grass and shrubs dominate the lowest points near Columbia River, while beautiful Ponderosa Pine grows at mid-elevations. Old-growth forests include Douglas-fir in the subalpine and alpine zones
Days in the forest are frequently sunny with moderate temperatures during summer. This makes National Forest a popular destination for picnicking, fishing, hunting, and hiking.
Lake Chelan State Park
This 127-acre camping park sits on the forested south shore of Lake Chelan. The human history of the area on which Lake Chelan State Park is located goes back thousands of years to when native tribes used it as a home and hunting area.
It boasts 6,000 feet of expansive lawns, shoreline, and lakeside views. The Park is home to various wildlife, including bears, deer, chipmunks, bobcats, pigeons, gulls, and fish
Summers tend to be hot and dry, favoring many activities for visitors, including boating, camping, picnicking, fishing, and several water sports.
Wenatchee National Forest
Wenatchee National forest lies on the southwest border of North Cascades National Park. It is 2.2 million acres of wilderness that stretches from the Yakama Indian Reservation in the south to the upper lake Chelanon in the north.
Vegetation in the Park varies from sagebrush and pine in the lower slopes to mountain huckleberry and alpine fir in high elevation areas.
Forty percent of the forest is preserved in its natural, primitive state, with hiking trails being the only access routes. Wenatchee National Forest offers several recreation opportunities, including rock-hounding, hunting, camping, fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Glacier Peak Wilderness
This wilderness area lies within Mount Baker National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest. It is defined by steep-sided valleys, heavily forested stream courses, and glacier-crowned peaks. Glacier Peak is the dominant geologic feature in this wilderness hence its name.
The vegetation comprises hemlock, fir, red cedar, Douglas fir, and pine. It is home to various wildlife, including deer, black bear, cougar, mountain goat, lynx, and marten. Many miles of extremely rugged hiking trails provide the only access in the wilderness.
Our Final Thoughts on North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades Complex is a ruggedly beautiful wilderness area set in the Cascade Range’s northern reaches. Its landscape is dominated by dramatic ridgelines punctuated by glaciersand thick forest through which clear, cold rivers run. Most of it remains utterly untamed with only a few access roads and a web of trails. A visit here gives outdoor enthusiasts a wilderness experience unlike any other in the continental United States.
The complex encompasses the national Park as well as Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreational Areas. Primary access is by road via the scenic Highway 20. Access to the Park is limited during spring and winter, but summer and fall bring out tourists, photographers, hikers, campers, mountaineers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
It is theoretically possible to navigate the entire park in a day. Still, it’s impractical and would certainly not do justice to the overwhelming splendor of what has been referred to by many as the “American Alps.” To fully appreciate the Park and all it has to offer, a carefully planned itinerary is required that preferably takes a few days. Camping options within and around the Park and lodging options in gateway communities make this possible.