Favorite thing: North Cascades National Park is located in North Central Washington State and partnered with the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. North Cascades is a vast mountain wilderness area (93%) with large areas only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles or by hiking/horseback trails. Start your visit at the visitors’ center where you can get maps of the park, register for back-country activities and get the advice of the rangers who live here how to best enjoy your visit.
Favorite thing: Diablo Lake's greenish water is due to glacial runoff. These glaciers grind rock into a fine powder that remains suspended in the lake. Light reflecting off the rock particles causes the greenish appearance of the lake.
Favorite thing: Diablo Lake overlook is a must see stop on this road. The lake itself is worth it, but there's also a great view of Sourdough Mountain, Davis Peak, Colonial Peak and Pyramid Peak. These are far less threatening sounding names than the ones I mentioned in the tip above, but they are still striking mountains.
Favorite thing: Some peaks in the North Cascades include: Mount Terror, Mount Despair, Damnation Peak, Mount Fury and Mount Challenger. I guess the names are supposed to indicate the ruggedness of the park and the degree of difficulty in climbing these mountains. But hearing those names makes me glad I stuck to the road.
Favorite thing: The highway is easily drivable, which is ironic since its within the most rugged wilderness area of the Lower 48. There are a few twists and turns, but its fairly level. Washington Pass, the highest point on the highway, is ony 5,400 feet.
Favorite thing: The Cascades highway was dedicated in 1972. Many parts of the highway are closed in winter due to heavy snow, which makes the already not too accessible park inaccessible by car. But the views along the highway on a clear summer day really are the best in Washington.
Favorite thing: Ross Lake National Recreation Area is the scenic corridor of highway 20. There are three waterways within this area: Ross Lake, Diablo Lake and Gorge Lake. All provide water access to North Cascades' more remote areas which are not reachable by car.
Favorite thing: The North Cascades is the most rugged wilderness area in the lower 48 states. Getting away from the one main road, there are lots of 8,000 plus foot mountain peaks, over 400 glaciers, forests of Douglas fir and cedar and even wolves and grizzlies. Since I'm not ready for my first grizzly encounter yet, I just stayed on the main road.
Favorite thing: North Cascades NP is about 110 miles from Seattle. The most direct route to access the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) is via 1-5 North to the Hwy 20 exit at Burlington. Various state highways also connect with the park.
Favorite thing: The first overlook along hwy 20, where a short trail leads to a view of Ross Lake dam on the Skagit river.
Favorite thing: Diablo Lake is open year round for fishing and boating. On a clear day such as this one, numerous private boats are coasting through Diablo's waters.
Favorite thing: Diablo's name originates from a Chinook word meaning "devil." That's a pretty harsh name for such a scenic lake. But its better than "Damnation Peak" and "Mount Terror", I suppose.
Favorite thing: Ross Lake overlook is the next stop on the Cascades highway. From here, you can access Ross Lake Resort, a series of floating cabins and boat rentals.
Favorite thing: Leaving the first overlook, the Cascades Highway continues on toward the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
Favorite thing: Leaving the visitors center, hwy 20 continues east to the turnoff for the first of dams built on the Skagit River.