North Cascades National Park

Located: Washington  -  Established: October 2, 1968

The Park: North Cascades is one of the country’s unique “wilderness” parks. The park is comprised of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and the mostly wilderness expanses of North Cascades National Park.  

The Ross Lake National Recreation Area and the North Cascades Highway (SR20) divide the Park into two separate units – north and south. 

 Diablo Lake Overlook

Diablo Lake Overlook

To the south, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is accessible only by foot, boat or float plane. There are no roads leading into this segment of the park. Passenger ferry service on the 50-mile Lake Chelan is available departing from Chelan, WA.  

At the far end of Lake Chelan, the laid back community of Stehekin offers visitors an escape from the hustle of the modern day world. 

The name "Stehekin" comes from a  Native American word meaning "the way through” and this tiny town serves as the gateway into Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and to the rest of the North Cascades National Park Complex, Stephen Mather Wilderness, and adjacent National Forest Wilderness Areas.

North Cascades hosts some of America’s most beautiful mountain scenery – tall jagged peaks, glacially carved valleys and magnificent waterfalls. North Cascades gets its name from the many waterfalls, rivers and streams that flow from the park’s 300 glaciers. 

Getting there: North Cascades is located in the northwestern section of the state of Washington. Primary access to the park is from the North Cascades Highway  (SR20). This road is considered by many to be the most scenic mountain drive in all of Washington. 

When to go: Winter visitation can be challenging as the area receives significant amounts of snowfall. The North Cascades Highway will typically close from mid-November to April. Summer months provide the best conditions for visiting this park. 

 Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake

What to doIf you’re looking for a premier backpacking experience, you’ve come to the right park! There are over 400 miles of trails situated throughout the park including a portion of the 2663-mile long Pacific Crest Trail. You’ll find 127 glacially fed alpine lakes dotting this backcountry landscape. 

Climbing the mountain peaks, day hiking the park’s many trails, floating rivers, fishing for trout and char, kayaking and canoeing, horseback riding and biking will fill your days at this very modestly visited park.   

 Where to stayNorth Cascades has five campgrounds accessible by car, three by boat and with over 400 miles of backcountry trails, there are numerous opportunities for wilderness camping. 

For those who prefer a bed to a sleeping bag, there are seven lodges dotted throughout the park to accommodate a good night’s rest!

 Memorable moment: The breathtaking view looking out across the emerald green waters of Diablo Lake. 

 North Cascades high country. Photo by Andrew Thomas

North Cascades high country. Photo by Andrew Thomas

TriviaNorth Cascades is home to over 300 glaciers, more than any other park in the lower 48 states.  

Banner: Berry bush found along the trail to Rainy Lake.

Experience these Check List:

  • Stop by the park's Visitor Center 
  • Drive the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20)
  • Take in the view at the Diablo Lake Overlook
  • Hike a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail at Rainy Pass
  • Take the ferry from Chelan to Stehekin Landing
 Terry trekking North Cascades on our  20t h park visit. 

Terry trekking North Cascades on our 20th park visit.