North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Quick Facts

North Cascades National Park

Washington

(360) 856-5700

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers adorn the North Cascades National Park Complex. Three park units in this mountainous region are managed as one and include North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. These complementary protected lands are united by a contiguous overlay of Stephen Mather Wilderness. Outdoor activities, scenic vistas, and educational opportunities abound. Stop by a visitor center and enjoy an interpretive talk or a walk with a ranger. Visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and stretch your legs at one of the stops along the scenic North Cascades Highway. Have a picnic, or go camping with the family. Take a trip into the wilderness for a premier backpacking or climbing experience. Ride the Lady of the Lake to the historic and unique town of Stehekin in the heart of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take a class from the North Cascades Institute at the new Environmental Learning Center. Go fishing in a lake or river. Perhaps, even take a rafting trip down a river! Have a horse? Stock are welcome on many of the trails. The name "Stehekin" is based on a local Native American word meaning "the way through". The Stehekin Valley has long served as a passageway for travelers, linking Washington's interior wilderness to the rugged Cascade Mountains. Today Stehekin offers vistors an escape from the hustle of the modern day world. Nestled at the headwaters of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in America, the Stehekin community lives life a little slower. Connected to the outside world only by foot, boat or plane, the voyage to Stehekin is part of your experience and once you've arrived a variety of historical, cultural, and outdoor activities will connect you with the majestic surroundings. Stehekin serves as a hub to explore the 61,958-acre Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and a gateway to the rest of the North Cascades National Park Complex, Stephen Mather Wilderness, and adjacent National Forest Wilderness Areas.

Map of North Cascades

Latitude, Longitude: 48.639449, -121.230906

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Activities

  • Boating

    River rafting is an excellent adventure worth planning for. Experienced boaters run the Skagit and Stehekin Rivers. Ask for a list of local outfitters at any ranger station. Kayaking, canoeing and motor boating are other options. Boat and paddling rentals are available at Ross Lake and Lake Chelan. Ramps are located at Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake, Lake Chelan and the north end of Ross Lake at Hozomeen. Personal watercraft (jet skis, etc.) are not allowed in the North Cascades National Park Complex.

    For Diablo Lake portage questions or updates regarding portage service call Ross Lake Resort at 206-386-4437. For all other questions, contact the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount at 360-854-7245. The Ross Dam Trail (milepost 134 off State Route 20) could also be used as a portage route to Ross Lake if need be, although keep in mind that this is a rocky, switchbacking trail that descends one mile and 900 feet to reach the lake.

  • Bird Watching

    A wide variety of birds breed within the park boundaries, including rare animals such as the bald eagle, osprey, Harlequin duck as well as a variety of neotropical migrants.

  • Bicycling

    The North Cascades Highway (SR20) offers a scenic and adventurous cycling trip. Be aware that road conditions along SR20 require special attention. Other bicycling trips in the North Cascades include the Stehekin and Methow Valleys.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Outdoor activities, scenic vistas, and educational opportunities abound at North Cascades National Park. Stop by a visitor center and enjoy an interpretive talk or a walk with a ranger or visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and stretch your legs at one of the stops along the scenic North Cascades Highway.

  • Camping

    The North Cascades Area offers a full range of camping experiences. Whether your idea of camping is from a car, RV, boat, or a strenuous trek into the wilderness, there is something for you here at North Cascades National Park. There are almost 140 backcountry campsites available, from boat-in sites to high alpine backpacking sites. Camping is allowed only at established sites along trail corridors. Camps include toilets, tent pads, and in some cases tables and fire pits. All backcountry sites require a free permit available at ranger stations. Permits are issued on a first come, first served basis. The North Cascades National Park Service Complex contains five car-accessible campgrounds (plus several group camps). All are located along State Route 20, the main road through the park, except for one campground that sits on the north end of Ross Lake and is accessed via Canada Highway 1. Facilities and prices vary to accommodate a variety of visitors.

  • Climbing

    North Cascades National Park is renowned for its varied and rugged climbing terrain. Here you will find climbing routes of high quality and aesthetic appeal, guarded by remote, rugged access and weather volatility, resulting in mountaineering experiences of mental and physical challenge, solitude, and fulfillment. The numerous peaks and over 300 glaciers present a variety of challenges and rewards: classic mixed mountaineering routes, intricate glacier travel, technical rock climbing and scrambling, all within a premier wilderness setting. Approach routes are often arduous, requiring strenuous crosscountry travel, sometimes for days or through thick slide alder, rocky avalanche shoots and scree slopes, icy creeks or rivers, steep snow, or traversing slopes in steep, slippery terrain. The physical and mental challenge can push climbers to their limits, and changes in the weather can foil a summit bid. But when you finally stand on the top of a summit in the North Cascades, looking out over a jagged, glaciated mountain range that finds its finest and highest expression here in the park, as you tower over the alpine meadows and deep valleys, you will understand why these peaks draw climbers and wilderness travelers again and again, and you will begin to plot your next climb in these mountains.

  • Fishing

    Fishing anywhere in the North Cascades National Park Complex is subject to all WA State fishing regulations and requires a valid Washington State fishing license. The Skagit River, one of Washington's major watersheds, is home to seven species of anadromous fish (five salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout) and freshwater trout and char. At Ross, Diablo and Gorge Lakes you may fish for native naturally occurring rainbow trout. Lake Chelan has fresh water cod, trout and kokanee (land-locked salmon.) The Stehekin River offers rainbow and cutthroat trout. In order to protect spawning fish populations, it is necessary to comply with special regulations including closures, seasons, catch limits and gear restrictions.

  • Hiking

    The North Cascades National Park Service Complex preserves some of the finest mountain country in North America--a hiker's smorgasbord. From accessible trails and short, scenic strolls to steep, grueling hikes that will make your legs burn but your heart sing, there is a trail here that will suit your mood. The extreme gradients of climate and topography contribute to an impressive diversity of habitat and species. To navigate the incredibly steep elevational relief, the nearly 400 miles of trails often follow the long, forested, valley bottoms, then switchback up to the steep passes or ridges. Over 300 glaciers cling to the spires, peaks, horns and ridges of the surrounding mountains, and more than 127 alpine lakes lie in glacial cirque basins below. The valleys are narrow, deep, and U-shaped, covered on the lower reaches with dense stands of old trees and layers of green undergrowth. This area is the core of a vast mountainous ecosystem of protected public lands. Envisioned as a wilderness park from its inception, over 93 percent of the park complex is designated as the Stephen Mather Wilderness. It lies at the core of over two million acres of federally designated wilderness, which is one of the largest such areas in the lower 48 states. Enjoy the solitude, peace, and challenge that hiking in this beautiful park offers. Remember to walk lightly, so that many generations more may discover this place as you will. Hiking Season Intrepid hikers, backpackers, and climbers ply the trails of the park year round. However, the more common hiking season stretches from April through October. The driest and most popular time to visit is during the summer months of mid-June through September. Keep in mind that higher elevation trails often remain snow-covered well into July and sometimes August. Precipitation and snowfall are greatest from November through March. The park's winters are wet, and snowfall is heavy. Access is often limited during these winter months by impassable or closed roads, so be sure to check the park conditions report.

  • Horseback Riding

    Stock trails in the North Cascades are designated and have specified camps for use with stock groups. Most are accessed from the Lake Chelan NRA but Ross Lake NRA is the access to several long trails that allow stock; Thunder Creek, Ross Lake and East Bank. All Wilderness party size limits apply, meaning that no more than twelve including all people and stock are allowed.

  • Picnicking

    There are picnic areas located throughout the park.

  • Water Sports

    Swimming and paddling are popular activities.

  • Wildlife Watching

    The North Cascades is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Animals with fins, fur, feathers and scales are all at home in this dramatic and beautiful environment. Elusive mammals like the gray wolf, fisher and wolverine wander the wilderness in small numbers, while more adaptable Columbia black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels and pikas delight park visitors in abundance.

  • Winter Sports

    In winter, the entire park is often blanketed by snow that reaches almost to the valley floor. Snows are often very deep in the high country. Route SR20 is closed over the pass. Trail reports are few and far between for the winter months. Wilderness travelers need to be proficent at winter camping--including evaluating for avalanche hazards--in order to venture to the high country, and those planning a trip to lower elevations need to be well prepared. To plan ahead, read the general trail report below to get a sense of last known conditions, and especially the trail's starting and ending elevation. Then check the weather forecast for the latest snow levels to get a sense of how much snow a trail might have.

    Always leave an itinerary with someone, and carry extra food, extra clothing, and emergency essentials. Please email the park after your trip if you can provide a trail update.

Seasonality/Weather

North Cascades National Park is open every day of the year. Winter weather however, tends to dictate when most visitor facilities and roads are open. Generally from late May to late October, facilities are open to welcome the increase in summer visitors. The best weather for visiting the North Cascades generally occurs between mid-June and late-September. Snow is off all but the highest trails by July. Autumn and Spring are becoming more popular for visits since car tours of the Skagit, Okanogan and Stehekin Valleys are enticing for color and wildlife during the less busy "shoulder seasons." Day hikes are excellent and give a great taste of the wilderness, whenever the weather is good. Storms are common: always be prepared for a few days of rain and wind. Warm, waterproof clothing and a tent are necessary for spring, fall and winter trips into the backcountry. Heavy snow and rain, at high elevations, characterize the North Cascades every winter. Avalanches are common in winter and spring in these steep mountains and even in places along the North Cascades Highway.

The east side of the Cascade Mountains (such as Stehekin in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area) is drier and warmer in the summer than the west side. Summer temperatures at Stehekin reach the 90s F. Winter at Stehekin and at all elevations above 2,000 feet throughout the park complex may be snow covered from late fall into spring.

Park Partners

Washington's National Park Fund

Washington's National Park Fund is the official fund raising partner for North Cascades National Park and actively solicits private charitable contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. The fund connects people who care to national parks, so they can show their support, and inspires contributions of time, talent and money to help ensure that visitors have high quality, memorable experiences in Washington's National Parks.

(253) 566-4644

Directions

Driving

Primary access to the North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area is off of State Route 20, which connects to I-5 (Exit 230) at Burlington. From November through April, SR 20 is closed from Ross Dam Trailhead to Lone Fir. The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia. There is no car access to Stehekin and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take Highway 2 to Chelan where passenger ferry and plane access is available. There is also trail access off of SR 20.

Flying

The nearest major airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seatac) near Seattle, Washington. Chelan Airways (509-682-5555) provides floatplane access to Stehekin in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

Public Transportation

Greyhound (1-800-229-9424) offers transport along the I-5 corridor in Western Washington and to Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. Connections to county bus systems for Skagit and Whatcom Counties (SKAT and WTA) are possible but do not reach into the park complex on the westside of the mountains. From Wenatchee, the Link Transit public bus system (no Sunday service) in Chelan County (1-509-662-1155) connects to the passenger ferry at Chelan allowing foot passengers to visit Stehekin by boat. A van shuttle is available in the Stehekin valley from the Stehekin Landing and runs to various lodges, camps and trailheads up valley.

Passenger boats provide round-trip service between Chelan and Stehekin with scheduled stops at Field's Point and Lucerne. Daily service is available form mid-March through early fall with reduced service during the winter months. For more information including current schedules visit www.ladyofthelake.com.

Amtrak (1-800-872-7245) offers transport along the I-5 corridor in Western Washington and to Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. Very little of the park is accessible via public transportation. Contact the park (360 854-7200) for more information.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(360) 856-5700

Links