The North Cascades National Park is located in northern Washington, a less than 3-hour day trip from Seattle. To the west of the mountain range, the park offers a landscape under consistent moisture and rain, while to the east of the mountains, the landscape is dryer. The mountains themselves offer more than 300 glaciers, as well as waterfalls and glacial lakes. Visitors enjoy hiking and camping, boating and fishing, wildlife and bird viewing, bicycling, and horseback riding.
Over 200 species of birds have been seen in the park, which is home to the threatened marbled murrelet as well as the spotted owl. Visitors may see Columbia black-tailed deer and picas, or perhaps the more elusive wolverine and gray wolf. As one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, the park is home to a variety of fish species, invertebrates and insects. Bodies of water within the park include the Gorge, Lake Chelan, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake at Hozomeen. Whitewater rafting and kayaking takes place on The Skagit and Stehekin Rivers. Extreme gradient and climate changes make for a variety of hiking trails through different habitats with different species. The park is home to over 400 miles of trails. Visitors may enjoy day hikes, or overnight backpacking. Several drive-in and boat-in campsites are available throughout the park, as well as wilderness campsites for those seeking more solitude and adventure. Several of the trails and campsites are open to stock for horseback riding, especially those surrounding Lake Chelan. Stehekin Valley is located at the headwaters of Lake Chelan, and is accessible by foot, boat or plane only. The small community with just 75 permanent residents is home to the famous 300-foot Rainbow Falls, the Harlequin Bridge and the Buckner Homestead Historic District, a collection of structures from the late 1800’s through the 1950’s that represent the history of settlement in the area.
History: Archeological evidence and artifacts from the park indicate that people have lived in the North Cascades area for over 9,500 years. Over 260 prehistoric sites have been identified within the park. Native people have lived in the mountainous region for thousands of years subsisting off the land. Trade routes between the east and west sides of the mountain range were vital to their survival, including the Cascade Pass, which is a favorite of backpackers and climbers today. Miners arrived in the area between the 1850’s and 1950’s in search of gold, sliver and lead along the Skagit River. The last mines closed in the 1950’s. Mining, logging and settling in the area led to the building of many roads in the mid-1900’s, including the construction of the Ross Dam, Diablo Dam and the Gorge Dam. The dams still provide power to the city of Seattle to this day. The park currently maintains over 81 historic structures, and the remnants of over 20 historic cultural landscapes. These sites include abandoned mines, historic hotels, ranger lodges, and cabins. The area was designated as a National Park in 1968 after a long history of failed attempts at preservation dating back to the late 1800’s. Today, over 90% of the park is set-aside as a wilderness area.
Ongoing Programs and Education: During the summer months, the park offers several ranger-led programs. Evening programs in the Skagit district include 30-minute campfire talks at the Newhalem Creek Campground Amphitheater. Newhalem by Night is a slide-show talk about the history of City Light in the North Cascades. The historic Ladder Creek Falls light show closes out the evening. Evening talks also take place in Hozomeen at the north end of Ross Lake. Historic Newhalem Walking Tours meet at the Skagit Visitor Center and offer easy one-hour walks while teaching about the history of the dam’s company town and the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. Ranger talks on the history and culture of the area also take place at the Diablo Lake Overlook. The North Cascades Institute is a non-profit organization that operates within the park to offer a variety of educational programming for both children and adults. The organization operates the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, a state-of-the-art facility within the park offering classroom space, an amphitheater, dining hall and lodging. Skagit Tours offers walking tours, boat tours on Diablo Lake, and tours of the historic Gorge Powerhouse in Newhalem.
810 State Route 20 Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, Phone: 360-854-7200