North Cascades National Park Travel Guide

  • Visitors Center
    Visitors Center
    by Basaic
  • Diablo Lake
    Diablo Lake
    by Basaic
  • Area Geology
    Area Geology
    by Basaic

North Cascades National Park Things to Do

  • Hiking Trails

    Since 93% of North Cascades National Park is designated as a wilderness area the only way to see most of the park is via trails into the interior. There are several shorter trails accessible from Washington Highway 20. These will at least introduce you to some aspects of the park and are well worth taking.

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  • Gorge Creek Falls

    As Gorge Creek comes down from the mountains it forms Gorge Creek Falls which is well worth the short walk to see.

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  • Gorge Creek

    Gorge Creek runs South from the high mountains into the Skagit River. The rock around the creek is very hard forming a canyon that is very deep and very narrow in some places. In other places the creek is near ground level. Note the flood damage in Photos 2 and 3.

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  • Area Geology

    Some places in the park, like this cut along the highway, provide a fascinating glimpse into the geological past of the North Cascades. The rock you see here is predominately Orthogneiss Bedrock (the dark grey). 100 million years ago this rock was 15 miles below the earth's surface. Some 40 million years ago this rock was invaded by veins of quartz...

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  • Colonial Peak

    Many years ago glaciers carved the strong metamorphic rock composing the top of Colonial Peak. Although the glaciers continue to grind away the tough rock of Colonial Peak defies much change. Colonial Peak is typical of the mountains forming the North Cascade Mountain Chain.

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  • Skagit River

    West of Diablo Dam, the Skagit River continues its flow towards the Pacific Ocean via a narrow, curvy canyon.

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  • Diablo Lake

    East of the dam Diablo Lake is formed by the water held back by the dam. Boating is very popular on Diablo Lake and the scenery is spectacular. The interesting and intense blue-green color of Diablo Lake is formed by something called "rock flour". "Rock flour" is formed by the glaciers in the nearby high country grinding rock against rock to...

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  • Logs and Debris

    Along the sides of Diablo Lake, near the entrance of larger streams to the lake you will see large log booms set up. These booms stop debris from entering the lake. This debris could endanger boaters and damage the dam intake and generator impellers.

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  • Diablo Dam

    Diablo Dam is one of three dams along the portion of the Skagit River located inside the park. It is the easiest one to access by car, since you can drive across it and park on the other side. I found it very interesting and the views were great. make sure you stop at the Diablo Lake Overlook east of the dam and take the short interpretive trail....

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  • Museum Displays

    There was a nice little museum/set of displays in the visitors center to introduce you to the area, its geology and the animals and people who have called the area home

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  • Visitors Center

    If you are entering from the west, begin your tour at the North Cascades National Park Visitors Center. Here you can get a brochure and newspaper for the park; look over maps; and get recommendations from the helpful rangers on how to best enjoy your visit based on your interests and the amount of time you have to visit. Unfortunately, I entered...

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  • All Those Damn Dams

    When driving along the North Cascades Hwy you will notice that there are a lot of large lakes. Most of these along the roadside were created by damming the Skagit River. First is the Baker river system.North of the town of Concrete are two large lakes Lake Shannon and Baker Lake. Both are held back by large dams. After that you will find 3 dams on...

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  • Gorge Creek Falls

    Clearly marked and almost impossible to miss, these falls are right along the highway about halfway between Newhalem and Diablo. You go over a large bridge that crosses the falls - on the western side of the bridge there is a pretty good sized parking lot. From here, you can hike to an overlook of Gorge Dam, or you can cross the highway for a...

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  • North Cascades Highway

    Route 20 is the scenic drive that cuts through the park. There are plenty of overlooks and turnouts as you head through the park, including several impressive lake views. For the most part, the road is pretty straight and gradually rises through the mountain range. Take your time as you drive the highway and get out when possible to take in the...

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  • Ladder Creek Falls

    Also in the Newhalem area - another quick little trail from a parking lot across the creek near the power plant. The grounds are neatly landscaped and lead to this pretty little waterfall. There are times that the foliage and waterfall are lit up, but they were reconstructing some of these features in 2007, so there was no light show. If you enjoy...

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North Cascades National Park Hotels

North Cascades National Park Restaurants

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    by Basaic Written Oct 22, 2011

    There are no restaurants inside the park. There is a small store with snacks at Newhalem near the camping area. There are restaurants in some nearby towns or continue on to Sedro-Wooley (west) or Okanogon (east).

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North Cascades National Park Transportation

  • Bring Your Own

    North Cascades National Park is well off the beaten path. You will need a private vehicle or a rental to get here. The nearest airport is probably Bellingham International Airport about 100 miles away.

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  • Car bus or motorhome

    Highway 20 is the only road access in the park. Lake Chelan has ferry service and there are guided boat tours of Diablo Lake. There is also bus service from Mount Vernon as well as an Amtrak station.

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  • North Cascades National Park Hotels

    1 Hotels in North Cascades National Park

    26 Reviews and Opinions

North Cascades National Park Local Customs

  • goingsolo's Profile Photo
    Henry Jackson helped create North Cascades NP

    by goingsolo Updated Jul 10, 2004

    North Cascades became a national park in 1968 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act which created the park. Henry Jackson was instrumental in gaining recognition of the park. A plaque at the Lake Diablo overlook honors Jackson for his efforts.

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North Cascades National Park Warnings and Dangers

  • Bears and wolves

    Most of the North Cascades is isolated wilderness. There are many opportunities to backpack to the middle of nowhere and experience the true wilderness away from highways and scenic overlooks. There are wolves and grizzlies in this area, so take precautions setting up camp and storing food. And if you see a grizzly, be sure to send me a photo.

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  • Speed Limits

    The posted speed limits on highway 20 are lower than those on most highways in Washington. But that doesn't stop motorcyclists and other vehicles from driving this road at top speed. It seems to me such a waste to fly through this area and miss the scenery, but to each their own. Slower moving vehicle, which is often those traveling at the speed...

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  • NORTH CASCADES TRAILS ARE STEEP

    Trails are a great way to approach peaks, though you won't always find them in the North Cascades. When you do, they are usually no-nonsense, gaining elevation quickly - a true 'sweater'. Elevation gains of over 1000 feet a mile are not uncommon.If you are not lucky, then your ordeals are just beginning. Bushwacking up - or down - a canyon here is...

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North Cascades National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Huge Trees

    Most of the North Cascades region was never logged. The result is virgin or primeval forests, meaning that you will find a large number of giant trees wherever you go. Make your way off the main road on most hiking trails and you will start noticing trees that have very large bases.Many of these trees are several century’s old and over 200 feet (60...

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  • Baker River Trail

    The Baker River Trail winds 2.6 miles (4.33km) through one of the best old growth forests in the state. The elevation gain is only 200ft (62m) and is not very noticeable.The lack of elevation gain makes this a very easy hike to bring kids along. After 0.6 miles (1km) you will reach a suspension bridge that crosses the Baker River.From that location...

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  • Road to Diablo Dam

    There is a turnoff from Cascades Highway leading to Diablo Dam. The spur road is steep and winds a bit and then continues on this narrow two lane bridge. From this point, a gravel road leads to Diablo Dam.

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North Cascades National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • Sterling Munro Trail

    The Sterling Munro Trail is named for the longtime Chief of Staff to Senator Henry Jackson. Munro was instrumental in preserving this park. The trail leads to one of his favorite views in the park, the Picket Range (Photo 2). The trail is only 300 meters long and has almost no elevation gain. There are a few interpretive signs telling you about the...

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  • River Loop Trail

    The River Loop Trail is an accessible trail running by the Skagit River. The trail is a 1.8 mile loop from the visitors center or a 1 mile loop from the Newhalem Campground. The trail has a few moderate grades along the way. Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing

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  • Gorge Overlook Trail

    The Gorge Overlook Trail follows the gorge and offers very nice views of the creek, free flowing cascades, and Gorge Dam. The trail is paved and fully accessible for the first 400 yards to the turnaround point at the Gorge Dam Overlook. If you want to continue, the trail continues another 600 yards through the forest, before looping back to the...

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North Cascades National Park Favorites

  • North Cascades National Park

    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...

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  • Ross Lake Dam Overlook

    The first overlook along hwy 20, where a short trail leads to a view of Ross Lake dam on the Skagit river.

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  • Diablo Lake

    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.

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Explore Deeper into North Cascades National Park
Boat in the Parks
Sports & Outdoors
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Ladder Creek Falls
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Ketchum Creek Falls
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Liberty Bell Mountain
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Gorge Creek Falls
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Washington Pass
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Ross Lake Overlook
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Lake Diablo
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Lake Diablo
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Diablo Lake Overlook
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Cascades highway
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Ross Lake
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Ross Lake Recreation Area
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Continuing on the road
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Approaching North Cascades
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Visitor Center
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Entering the Park
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Getting there
Favorites
North Cascades geology
Off The Beaten Path
Diablo Lake
Off The Beaten Path
Road to Ross Lake
Off The Beaten Path
Cascades road overlook
Off The Beaten Path
Bridge to visitor center
Off The Beaten Path
Skagit River
Off The Beaten Path
Diablo Lake
Things to Do
North Cascades
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Ross Lake
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Ross Lake National Recreation Area
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AVALANCHE
Warnings and Dangers
EXCELSIOR DEO
Off The Beaten Path
EXCELSIOR RIDGE
Off The Beaten Path
MT SHUKSAN
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TRAPPER PEAK
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THORNTON LAKES
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MARMOTS
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SOURDOUGH LOOKOUT
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Map of North Cascades National Park

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